Monday, September 30, 2013

Living in the Wild

There's lots of talk about the Zombie apocalypse and if we're prepared to survive. My one son is a big fan of The Walking Dead so we have this discussion now and then. They're all pretty confident that with my background I'll make sure our family survives. It's been a few years since I won medals for archery, but we have fun talking about it.
This wild creature visited me on the
front porch.

On the other hand, I won't be visiting your blogs until late today or tomorrow because I'm going to visit my sister who really does live in the wilds. It's my first visit to her 'new' farmstead. She has an odd address with only a box and route number. I asked her for a road name to plug into GPS. She told me it doesn't work where she lives. People always end up in the middle of a farmer's field. We laughed and she sent me written directions. Yes, there's a gravel road or two interspersed between winding paved roads.

After reading through the directions I emailed her and told her to stay by the phone in case I became lost. Can't remember the last time I got lost but we've been using GPS for a while now. She assured me she would but my cell phone wouldn't find a signal during chunks of the trip. Oh, and forget TV.

I know I'll enjoy my visit with my sister, but it is uncomfortable knowing I'll be out of touch with the online world for most of two days. I won't check my email, update a facebook status or visit any blogs. I'm really going to be unplugged until I get close to home.

Don't forget this Wednesday is the Insecure Writers' Support Group. It's going to be a very exciting month for this wonderful group started by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Are you ready?

So share your experiences of being unplugged. Did you miss it or enjoy it? What special skills to you have to survive in a post apocalyptic world?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Family and Weather

I can think of lots of bad excuses not to write, but recently I've been plagued, blessed, with some good ones.

Central Pennsylvania has experienced a weeks long run of beautiful, terrific, sunny and dry weather. We're talking mid 70's during the day with little humidity and nights in the 40's to 50's. Perfect sleeping weather and day times that draw you outside and won't let you return to your desk.

Yesterday I went for my morning run and extended it by ten minutes just to be outside. Then I had to pick some tomatoes and peppers from my plants that won't stop giving. Then I had to check out the backyard where some friends are clearing out some deadfall. Oh, and carry some wood into the garage in case winter ever shows up. Then when I should have been writing, I just walked outside a few times. Sat on the deck and read for a little bit. It was lovely.
The red hills of Colorado

Two of my children are out of state at the moment. My daughter is at Boston University and my son is in Colorado Springs doing an internship. Both miles away and sorely missed. But only a phone call away. My daughter and I have spend so much time together since her birth. Did I mention she has five big brothers? We think the same thing at the same time so often... So while miles apart we have to reach out and tell each other all the little things in our day that we understand the other one must know right away. My son in Colorado has so many things going on with his work and his future employment plans. And we had to worry about him during the flooding. We have to speak to him at least once a day. Let me explain that they call me. I'm not one of those hovering parents. And when they call, I put the writing aside and talk for as long as they want. What parent wouldn't?

So these two wonderful things, beautiful weather and loving family, have slowed down my word count for the last few weeks. But I DON'T care. Priorities.

What wonderful things have interfered in your writing lately? Do you feel guilt when you set aside your writing for something else? How's your weather going into this first weekend of fall?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Trust the Experts

I've been getting a little anxious about the fantasy book, First Dragon, that has a release date in November. Though it's been on the coming soon page for a while, I haven't seen the cover art. I'm very excited about the book and wanted a cover that would give life to the characters in the book. I worried for nothing.

Two days ago the publisher sent be a choice of covers, nearly the same but with minor differences, and asked me which one I liked best. What a choice! They were both perfect, better than anything I imagined.

For my last romance book, my other publisher, my editor suggested a change of title. She explained the reasoning, and I gladly went with her idea. And the book sold great.

I'm busy writing the second book in The Morbunda Saga that will continue the epic fantasy introduced in First Dragon. I have a title but I'm not  completely sure of it. If my editor suggests a change, I'll be happy to agree. Because I'm learning to trust the people who are the experts.

When a writer puts her name on the bottom of that contract, she knows she's turning over a lot of control of her work to someone else. It's an easy decision for me with New Concepts Publishing. I've worked with them for a number of years and they've been in the business longer than most small presses. They were a leader in the ebook market way back in the beginning. That beautiful cover for First Dragon is going a long way in building my trust in that publishers also.

Have you had a publisher change a title of your work? Has a publisher ever given you a choice of cover art? How long before the release of your book did you receive your coverart?

Monday, September 23, 2013

SyFy & Fantasy Boom

One thing about being a full time writer is that I get my writing done during the day and have more time to catch some TV shows in the evening. I actually only have a few shows I try to catch every week but the new fall lineup has a lot of promising shows I'll have to check out. And the best part is that the small screen is taking a hint from the success of the large screen with a plethora of syfy and fantasy offerings.

I've always been a fan of this genre as evidenced by what I write so the past few years have been a bonanza of entertainment fun. On TV, we have some returning favorites of mine. Supernatural, Haven, Once Upon a Time and Game of Thrones will all be airing new episodes in the course of the next few months though we'll have to wait for GOT just like we do for the books. I'll be checking out some new shows over the next two months. Sleeping Hollow already started and I like it so far. I'm looking forward to Almost Human with Karl Urban, Dracula, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland and The
Tomorrow People. I might check out Marvel's Agents of Shield.

Not only do I enjoy watching these type of shows but they inspire me. I appreciate the creativity of the show writers and find their unique visions of fantasy creatures and worlds. And the more popular they are the more I hope that popularity spills over into the book market. I have so many friends who read syfy and fantasy that I start to think it's the most popular genre out there. Here's an interesting blog, Five Scribes, about those stats from a year ago.

I do also write romance which gets a big share of the market but I'm still hoping syfy and fantasy grabs a little more.

Are there any particular shows you're looking forward to return or new TV you're going to sample this fall? Do you think the recent popularity of syfy and fantasy on the big and small screens helps book sales? Do you think the trend will continue?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Dust Off the Oldies

In case you've been living under a rock this week, Alex J. Cavanaugh's third book, CassaStorm took off in a mach speed launch. You probably saw him everywhere. Each blog he visited had a unique bit of info on Alex or his books. Lynda R. Young shared a very interesting post for Alex yesterday. He shared his story about how he never intended to write novels. Read how he pulled an old story he wrote out of a drawl, dusted it off can created his first novel. Read it here.

How many writers have stories and even complete novels sitting on a shelf or on a zip drive somewhere? Probably all of us. We left them behind because they weren't good enough or another project took us away from them. But when we created them, their characters or their plot caught our imagination.

Last year around this time, I had just signed a contract for my latest fantasy novel with Crescent Moon Press. I always clean up my writing area when I finish a project and there it was. My next project. An old manuscript, perhaps five years old, that I'd finished and set aside. I decided I would polish it, fix the weak points and see what I could do with it. I'd always like the main characters but for some reason I had set it aside.

Viola! The Marine's Queen, my bestselling novel ever, was picked up by my romance publisher. Perhaps it was the timing, genetic engineering, near the same time Star Trek Into Darkness came out. But if I hadn't dusted off that old story...

Do you have a neglected work of art waiting to be rediscovered? Did you read Alex's story over on Lynda's blog?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Why Join?

Recently I renewed and reactivated my memberships in the two writers' groups I've belonged to nearly since the start of my writing career.

Pennwriters is a state-wide organization of writers. Poets, journalists, nonfiction and fiction writers of all genres belong to this wonderful group of supportive and knowledgeable people. They run an affordable and educational conference every year, bringing in editors, agents and successful writers to lead workshops and answer any question a writer could have. I love the way they cater to writers at every point in their careers from beginners to multi-published.

RWA is the national organization for writers of romance. Unlike some other national organizations for select genres, RWA welcomes unpublished writers as well as the published. They also support local chapters of their organization, in my neck of the woods, CPRW. My local chapter is a wonderful, friendly group that meets once a month in a local library.
Drinking my wine from a Christmas goblet

Why spend the money to join writers' groups? I've found in my first few months as a full time writer that I'm quite happy to sit in my office for hours everyday and work. Alone with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Sure I share with other people online but I don't speak to anyone else about my writing. I need those writing groups for some personal contact with other writers. It's so refreshing to sit in a room with them, exchange ideas, ask questions, answer questions, share in successes and failure. I'm always inspired after a writer's meeting.

A large amount of networking goes on at meetings and conferences. We make plans to promote each other, do book signings together, and some writers find their critique partners there. Being a writer doesn't mean you have to lonely.

Do you belong to any writing groups? Are they worth the money to belong? What do you get out of the group?

Don't forget to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh this week to celebrate the release of CassaStorm.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Taking the World by Storm

It is storming here today.  Tomorrow is the official release day of CassaStorm, third and final book in Alex Cavanaugh's bestselling space opera. Prizes and fun abound. As part of the fun, I asked Alex one question and he promised an honest answer.

Me: if you were given the opportunity to leave Earth and travel to other worlds, would you go for it?

Alex:  Sadly, I’m just not that adventurous. And I hate to fly. It would have to be really safe before I’d just jump on a spaceship and head into space.

By Alex J Cavanaugh
From the Amazon Best Selling Series!
A storm gathers across the galaxy…
Commanding the Cassan base on Tgren, Byron thought he’d put the days of battle behind him. As a galaxy-wide war encroaches upon the desert planet, Byron’s ideal life is threatened and he’s caught between the Tgrens and the Cassans.
After enemy ships attack the desert planet, Byron discovers another battle within his own family. The declaration of war between all ten races triggers nightmares in his son, threatening to destroy the boy’s mind.
Meanwhile the ancient alien ship is transmitting a code that might signal the end of all life in the galaxy. And the mysterious probe that almost destroyed Tgren twenty years ago could return. As his world begins to crumble, Byron suspects a connection. The storm is about to break, and Byron is caught in the middle…
“CassaStorM is a touching and mesmerizing space opera full of action and emotion with strong characters and a cosmic mystery.” – Edi’s Book Lighhouse

"Cavanaugh makes world building on the galactic scale look easy. The stakes affect the entire known universe and yet Cavanaugh makes it intensely personal for our hero. The final installment of this series will break your heart and put it back together."
- Charity Bradford, science fantasy author of The Magic Wakes

$16.95 USA, 6x9 Trade paperback, 268 pages, Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.
Science fiction/adventure and science fiction/space opera
Print ISBN 9781939844002 eBook ISBN 9781939844019
$4.99 EBook available in all formats
Find CassaStorm:

Comment on Alex’s blog this week for a chance to win a Cassa mug, mousepad, magnet, and swag!

So have you bought CassaStorm yet? Are you ready to win some swag? Is it storming where you are? How many times have you see CassaStorm in the blogosphere today?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Next Project

Finally, I've finished polishing The Marine's Heiress and am ready to move onto the next project. It only took me about three bottles of wine to get through that chore. When I first started writing, I didn't always know what the next project would be. Usually I would spend a few weeks in debate on which of several projects I should tackle next. But since I've finished with the 'day job' and started on a career as a full time writer, I no longer intend to waste those days of indecision.

My next project is the second book in my epic fantasy series, The Morbunda Saga. The opening book in the series, First Dragon, is coming this November from Crescent Moon Press. The first draft of the second book is completed, just waiting my attention which it shall have. Having a plan and a schedule really brings home my claim to be a full time writer.

Have I learned to juggle more than one project at a time? Perhaps though I still don't like it. I wish I could concentrate on one thing at a time but that's not how this business works. The days of a writer hiding in a peaceful chalet and working without interruption are long gone. So I'm off to the next project, more promotion, new blogging endeavors and whatever other things I need to do to move my career along.

Follow this link to learn about some writing habits of famous writers. I'm slowly working to be as disciplined as some of them. In the meantime, on to the next project.

Do you have your next project planned? Do you have a disciplined approach to your writing time or do you fit it in when you can? Have you looked to any famous writer for advice on how you conduct your writing career?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September 11

I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking I'll never forget where I was when the world changed on September 11th a dozen years ago. I was teaching high school and shortly after the news broke, most classrooms were glued to the news being broadcast on TV.

Where I taught and where I still live, is a community within a few miles of TMI, the infamous nuclear power plant. That's a story for another day. But in the days and weeks following 9/11, our students were very aware of fears the next attack might be on a nuclear power station. Those early, eerie days when no planes flew over our athletic fields reminded them of the danger. A number of times, fighter jets were scrambled when someone thought an attack might come. All false alarms, but it shook our young people.

Schools updated their evacuation plans though everyone knows with the traffic situation, our students would have no chance to escape if the worse happened. TMI hunkers in our school district. But despite their fears, those wonderful teenagers showed up to school, studied, played their athletic events and continued life. Terror did not win. I was and am so proud of them.

I don't do political posts on my blog but I do want to say that this day makes me sad for the innocence we lost on 9/11. And it makes me proud of the response of those near me. It makes me grateful I live in the  USA and grateful to our allies who joined us in our grief during that time.

Where were you on 9/11? Was it a fearful day where you were?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Editing Day

I'm ready to start a final read through of my latest novel, The Marine's Heiress, before sending it to my editor at New Concepts Publishing. I'm still worried about the balance between my science fiction and the romance in the novel, but I expect it to be a clean manuscript.

Clean means it will have a minimum of spelling and grammatical errors. I will also try to make sure it is formatted in the manner my publisher likes it. Many small publishers operate on thin budgets and the less work I cause them, the quicker they will get my book ready to put in the lineup for release.

Editing is work for me, even more so than writing a first draft. I do best when I do this last read through with few interruptions. I will spend hours on it and every hour I'm away from it I'll be thinking about it.

I'm not an editing expert but there are lots of places to go where experts have shared their experience with the rest of us. Just goggle editing tips. Here's one I read over before starting a new edit.

Sometimes editing can be overwhelming so never hesitate to ask for advice. If you have critique partners and alpha or beta readers they are invaluable but when it comes to the end, you must take the responsibility for getting it all right.

On the other hand, I enjoy the editing experiences I've had with New Concepts Publishing and Crescent Moon Press. It will be a relief to hand it all over to the professionals.

Do you keep editing tips by your side when you're working on revision? Any favorites that you turn to again and again? Ever have a bad experience with an editor?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Should You MFA or Not?

One writer's magazine that I often enjoy is Poets and Writers. Though I don't write for the literary marketplace I do read lots of it. And despite what some people in the business would have us believe, writing is writing whether it's for a literary audience or the genre lovers. This past issue P&W had their annual feature on MFA programs.

I'm way beyond the point of wanting to pursue another master's degree but I often wish I had considered it when I started my writing career. In truth, I didn't even know such programs in creative writing existed. When I did learn of these programs, I should have investigated further. I might have found one that fit my financial and time restraints.

In today's world of the MFA offerings around the USA, many colleges are competing for those writers hungry for that degree. What do they hope to get with that degree?

I think firstly they want professional advice, assessment and the sharing of expertise and knowledge their instructors will bring into the classroom. But how expert are their teachers? Are they multi-published authors? Are they experienced teachers? Teaching is about more than knowledge. One has to be able to convey what you know in a manner that students can learn what they need. Have previous graduates of the MFA program found success. If a MFA candidate has already ventured into publishing, will the program raise their writing to a higher level?

One of the other expectations of enrolling might be making contacts and becoming part of a larger writing community. There are other less ambiguous measures when selecting a program? Is it a residency program which would mean leaving a job, a family and certainly increase cost? Is it low residency or non-residency meaning you'll save money and perhaps keep the day job but lose the face to face contact with your instructors? And will any debt you incur be worth the possible advancement to your writing career?

I do have regrets I never took the MFA path but I know I couldn't afford the financial or personal tradeoffs I would have had to make when I started writing. Do you think MFA programs are worth the costs and time? Have you heard good or not so good things? Are all such programs equal? Do you ever read Poets and Writers?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

IWSG: Happy Aniversary

It's that time of month. No, not that time, it's the first Wednesday and that means the Insecure Writers Support Group post time. Two years ago, Alex J. Cavanaugh, started this wonderful group where writers offer support, advice and generally help each other through the wonderful, confusing and sometimes lonely business of being a writer. You can find an entire list of participating writers on this list.

Two years is a long time for a blogging group like this to continue on and on. I believe it does continue to grow stronger and sturdier for a couple of reasons. Number one is our tireless leader, Alex Cavanaugh. Alex sends reminders, encourages members and welcomes the newbies. There are also so many experienced and talented writers on this list that every month I learn something or find a link to someplace I need to be. In any given month, there were be a wide variety of posts, some asking for help and others offering assistance even if it's just advice. Yes, this group is strong because of its members are.

Enough cheerleading for today. Recently I read an interview in a writer's magazine that really struck a note with me. The article caught my eye because I personally know the writer. I don't know Jonathan Maberry well but we belong to the same writer's group and I've spoken with him and heard him speak at conferences. He's a very prolific writer and I've enjoyed many of his books. But to the point, Jonathan was questioned in the interview about writer's block. He doesn't believe in it. He thinks that people struggle to put words on the paper(computer screen) because they're 'trying too hard to write a perfect first draft.' He recommends getting that first draft done and then fixing it. His philosophy works for him and he writes fast.

I personally have never experienced writer's block so I'm not sure if Jonathan is correct or not. But if you are having some difficulty getting those words from your mind to your computer, perhaps you should consider his theory.

I'm not sure if I've been here since the start of IWSG but I think I have. How long have you been a member? Do you know Jonathan Maberry or have you read any of his books? Have you ever suffered from writer's block? What do you think causes it and how would you recommend someone overcomes it?

Don't forget to visit other blogs in the IWSG.