New Pen Name and New Cover

My blog friend, Staci Troilo, is coming out with a new sci-fi series, and has decided on a pen name since it’s not her usual genre. If any of you are sci-fi fans, you might want to check her series out!

Staci Troilo

Ciao, amici! Life’s been busy, and it just got CRAZY. My publisher moved the release date of my new book from October to May 7. May 7! That’s less than a month away! I’ve got so much pre-release work to do. Starting with a cover release. So… ta-da!

It’s it stunning? I’m so excited about it.

Let me back up a step. First, you’ll notice it does NOT say “Staci Troilo” on the cover. We’ve talked about this before, here and there or in passing. I’m writing under a pen name (D. L. Cross) for this series. We can talk more about that later, though.

Second, you’ll note an alien ship on the cover. Aliens, as in sci-fi. It’s not a genre people associate with the name Staci Troilo, which is one of the reasons I’m writing under a pen name. If you’re interested in science fiction and aliens, this…

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I only think I’m prepared

I like to be organized.  Maybe a little too much.  We go to the grocery store twice a month these days.  Well, actually, HH only goes to pick up the groceries we’ve ordered online.  I always worry I won’t have enough (not that we’ve EVER run out) and that we have all of the ingredients I want for each meal, so I make out menus.  I plan our suppers for every night before we’ll order groceries again.  And when I scribble down each night’s meal, I list the ingredients we’ll need for it.

For example, for our last list, I served chicken piccata, buttered noodles, and green beans on Monday; BBQ ribs, mashed potatoes, and broccoli on Tuesday; salmon with fried rice and brussel sprouts on Wednesday; almond noodle bowls with ramen on Thursday; etc.  When I’m done, I know I’m prepared.  Even though there’s always something we run out of between each trip to the store–milk, juice, bread–those pesky everyday things.

The same holds true with my writing.  I’m so far from being a pantser, I’d probably break out in a rash if I just sat down and decided to wing it.  A lot of people can do it.  It’s not in my nature.  So I make a plot point for every chapter of my book.  I include the things that I think are important that I should cover.  And when I finish, in theory, I have enough plot twists, clues, interactions to have a novel.  For Muddy River One, it took 34 plot points to come up with 57,000 words.  This time, for whatever reason, I expected each chapter to be longer, more involved.  I wrote two or three different scenes for quite a few of them.  I had two subplots.  So I only listed 26 of them.  And guess what?  There’s no possible way I can reach my word count unless I come up with more.

So, I sat down tonight, after much fussing–my poor husband–and redid the last ten chapters of Muddy River Two.  It looks great on paper, and I should have enough, or at least, really close to enough to meet my goal, but who knows?  Every book is different.  The mystery’s rogue incubus is a lot more clever than I expected, and he’s a lot more ruthless, too.  Suspects that I thought Raven and Hester could question end up dead before they get there.  Now that blows a few nice scenes.  You can’t interrogate a person who’s been drained dry.  But even though I do my best to whip my characters into shape to obey me, they don’t always listen.  And if they don’t get too crazy, I’m willing to give them some leeway.  Then I need to stop somewhere in my writing and restructure the story.  Which I did.  And hopefully, it works.  It should this time:)

Promo Tips

This must be the week the writing world concentrated on marketing and self-promotion.  I found this on twitter and thought I’d share.  After I read it, I felt a little bit like a slacker, but you can’t do it all.  Still, it might give you some ideas.

https://insights.bookbub.com/promo-tips-muse-marketplace-2019/?utm_source=pemail_promo-tips-muse-marketplace-2019

Nag, nag, nag

A while ago, over on the Story Empire blog, Staci Troilo was host and asked What is the Favorite Book you’ve written and why?  I read all five of the writers’ answers who take turns hosting the blog to see which book they chose and why it was their favorite.  Their answers were interesting.  You can find the link here:

https://storyempire.com/2019/03/29/bonus-friday-favorite-book/

At the end of the blog, Staci opened up the comments section to other authors to share. I tried to think of the favorite novel I wrote, but I couldn’t settle on one.  I love every book I write, or else I’d never be able to slog through 60,000-100,000 words to finish them.  But then–and every writer will know this feeling–the question just wouldn’t go away.  It rattled around in my head and kept nagging me.  Until I finally came up with an answer for myself.

If I had to choose, I’d pick FALLEN ANGELS, an urban fantasy I wrote as Judith Post.  It was my first true attempt at urban fantasy.  Not that I got it right.  Every editor who commented on it said that NO humans should play a major part in an urban fantasy.  And what did I do?  I made Danny, the detective, work with Enoch, the fallen angel, as a partner.  I did a few other things wrong as well, but I learned a lot while I muddled through it.  And mistakes and all, I was really proud of that book when my agent finally approved it.  First, every time I redid a scene, the book got longer.  It’s the longest book I’ve ever done.  I’d never written a battle scene before, and I had all kinds of them scattered through the story.  I had Enoch–the angel who tackled his friend so he couldn’t join Lucifer’s rebellion–watch Caleb get thrown to Earth as punishment anyway.  And when Caleb bites humans to drink their blood to sustain his own energy, he infects them with his immortality and creates the first race of vampires.  Who don’t behave well, so Enoch’s sent to Earth to clean up after Caleb.

I liked the ideas I played with for this story.  And I was happy that I’d created a character–Enoch’s best friend, Caleb–who was so selfish, but charming–that you waffled between hating him and cutting him some slack.  I tried, but didn’t completely succeed, to create a romantic interest who was so hurt that she pushed everyone away.  That was trickier than I imagined.  Some readers felt sorry for her, and others could have done without her:)

I guess the reason I’d choose FALLEN ANGELS as the favorite novel I’ve written is because it challenged me to leave my comfort zone and write things I’d never tried before. Enoch was a protagonist who didn’t want the job he’d been given.  He didn’t want to be a hero.  All he wanted to do was convince Caleb to go Home with him.  But Caleb LIKED the freedom he’d found on Earth.  He never wanted to repent and be forgiven.  So Enoch was stuck.  Probably for a long time–a brooding hero.

What about you?  Which book would you choose?  And why?  (Be careful.  If you don’t answer, the question might nag you for a long time).

Happy writing!

Starting Over

A friend of mine is getting back into writing.  Which means she’s not new at it, but she’s been away from it for so long, she feels like she’s starting over.  I don’t think that’s true.  I think it’s like riding a bicycle.  Once her fingers touch her keyboard, it will all come back.  Maybe in starts and stops, but eventually the words will flow like they once did.

She asked me for advice on how to get her mojo going again, and we talked about all the things that have changed over the years. You can self-publish now.  And even if you sell, you need to learn to market your work.  There’s twitter, Facebook, blogs.  We talked about all of them.  But I finally figured out the most important advice of all.  JUST WRITE.  None of the rest matters if you don’t have a story or novel that’s finished.  And it makes life better if your story or novel fits a genre somewhere.

I’m all about studying your craft, reading books like Scene and Structure by Jack Bickham or the many other experts on the subject.  There are links on twitter to hone your word choice, use stronger verbs, start with a hook, develop characters fully, make settings come to life, etc.  I retweet the best links I see everyday.  There are lots of them.  But there are no words to make powerful if you don’t write them.  And every time you do, you learn more.

So, after explaining to my friend about finding followers on twitter and signing up for BookBub, my best advice was, “What are you going to write first? Get started on it.”

You can debate whether it’s better to be a pantser or a plotter, if you should storyboard or throw 3 x 5 cards with  scene ideas in the air to see where they land, but most sins can be fixed by a good edit and rewrite.  And no matter what you do–as far as I can tell–when you reach the middle of your novel, you’ve reached the black swamp of misery that you have to fight through to the other side.  C.S. Boyack wrote about that on his blog today, and I don’t know a writer who can’t sympathize.  https://coldhandboyack.wordpress.com/2019/03/28/a-writing-day-the-middle-slog/

While I’m at it, Staci Troilo wrote a particularly good blog about developing a series, too.  https://storyempire.com/2019/03/25/the-story-bible/  I find a lot of useful writing information on Story Empire.  BUT, as I said before, talking about writing and thinking about writing aren’t writing.  To be a writer, you have to plant fanny in chair and type words on empty pages until those words add up to a story.  And if your first effort doesn’t make you dance around the house and celebrate?  Give yourself credit for making it to the finish line.  And write another story.  You’ll keep getting better at it.  Especially if you study and work at improving WHILE you write.

I hope this has inspired you to hit those keys!  Happy writing!

 

 

 

 

 

Tale of a Story: Voices

My good writer friend and fellow Scribe, Kathy Palm, sold a new story and it’s available on Kindle for $2.99. I’ll let her tell you about it.

Finding Faeries

Back in 2006 or 2007, or somewhere in there, I had an idea for a girl who could hear the thoughts of others. Her name was Lucinda…Cinda for short. So i wrote it. And it received an honorable mention from the Writer’s Digest short story competition. I was very excited.

I was so excited, I decided to submit it. Remember Leading Edge magazine from my last post? They published my story “Marked” (the story that didn’t place in the same competition), so I sent “Cinda” to them. It was rejected. Now, the wonderful thing about Leading Edge is that they send feedback from readers. I had comments on why the story didn’t work, which helped me rethink the idea, and I rewrote it.

And submitted it again.

It was rejected again with more comments. Though none of what anyone said clicked in my brain, so I set the story aside.

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Treasure Trove

Our daughter’s visiting us this weekend, so this blog is going to be shorter than usual.  Planning on lots of play time:)  I’ve been working on rewrites for my fourth Jazzi Zanders book, though.  So my mind has been playing with her, the people she hangs with, and renovating old houses.  And as always when I’m putting the finishing touches on one book, my mind starts wandering to the next book in the series.

And that’s where a good friend of mine and my husband’s has proven a treasure trove of ideas.  Ralph used to buy old houses and renovate them to rent.  Now, Ralph isn’t the type to just slap paint on walls and make a space liveable.  He’s a perfectionist.  He makes everything he works on the best it can be for the price he can put into it.  And when I told him that I was writing a series about a woman, her cousin, and her romantic interest who flip houses, he suprised me with one idea after another of how flipping a house could dig up clues to old murders.

I’ve already used a few of the things he’s shared with me.  Like finding an old, loved tool box in a basement with all kinds of antique tools no one can find anymore and a person’s initials burned into the beautifully carved wood.  That’s how Jazzi and Ansel knew Joel had been in Cal’s house in book one.  For book two, Ralph told me about how an older man walked past a house he was renovating every day at the same time, and how he came to watch for him, until one day he didn’t come.  And Ralph wondered about him.  Was he all right?  Had something happened to him?  I used that idea for Leo walking his dog past the roof Jazzi, Jerod, and Ansel were working on, and Leo would stop to talk to Jazzi every chance he got because he was lonely.  And then one day, Leo didn’t come.

For book five, Ralph intrigued me with a story he told about finding a woman’s treasure box in a closet while he was gutting a house.  She had stones she’d collected when she was a little girl, grade school class pictures, a yearbook, letters from friends, pieces of jewelry, and ribbons and awards, among other things.  For book five, I have Jazzi, Jerod, and Ansel fixing up one of the old “grand dame” houses in Auburn, a town north of where I live.  And I keep thinking about what Jazzi will find in a treasure chest of the girl who grew up in that house, but when Jazzi tries to return the box to her, she finds out the girl died soon after her senior prom, and no one ever solved what happened to her.  And that, of course, sets up the mystery she tries to solve.

Ralph’s given me lots more ideas, and I’ve written them all down and keep them in my own small box of treasured story ideas for later use.  Who knew flipping houses, in real life, could stimulate so many plots?  But I’m grateful for all of them.  And if I’m lucky, I’ll have lots more Jazzi Zanders mysteries to write.

And for all of you, happy writing!

 

What is a supernatural mystery anyway?

When I tell friends that I finished Muddy River Mystery One and put it on Amazon, they ask, “What is it?”

Well, a mystery.  That’s in the title.  Muddy River is the town on the Ohio River that the supernaturals settled.  They found a nice, hilly, secluded area in southwest Indiana, far from mortals, to call home.

“The supernatural?” they ask.

Yup, witches, vampires, shapeshifters, and demons, among others.  Most friends know that I used to write urban fantasy.  And now I’m writing mysteries.  So I decided to combine the two.  Sort of like the Babet and Prosper novellas that I used to write.    Prosper was a bearshifter and his partner on the force, Hatchet, was a Druid.

I like writing about Druids.  Of course, I jazz them up a bit.  My Druids can call on lightning to strike and their tattoos are alive and writhe when they’re angry.  It’s Prosper and Hatchet’s job to solve crimes committed by supernaturals who break the rules.

Prosper teams with Babet, a witch, to solve a murder.  In Muddy River, Raven Black–a fire demon–teams with Hester Wand– a witch–to solve the deaths of thirteen young witches who were just starting their own coven.  Of course–no suprise here–while they work together, they fall for each other.

“Oh, a paranormal romance!” someone says.

“No, wrong emphasis.  A paranormal romance has the romance as the story’s main focus.  Raven and Hester’s relationship is more of a subplot.  The mystery forms the main plotline in my story.”

“Why is it different than an urban fantasy?  You started with those.”

“Urban fantasies are about the bad guys, usually evil, bumping heads with the good guys–the protagonist and his friends.  The battles escalate until it’s life or death at the end of the book.  This book, even though it has a few battles, is about solving the mystery.”

This is when my friends usually scratch their heads.  But fellow writers–they’ll understand.  The main plot line is what distinguishes one kind of story from another.  And this story is …a mystery with a romance subplot in a world peopled by Fae, Druids, witches, vampires, shifters, and one banshee.  And it was really fun to write!  As fun as Babet and Prosper.

A close friend and fellow writer still looks at me, bewildered.  “But why?  Your cozy mysteries are doing so well.”

All writers know that it’s dangerous to switch genres.  People who read cozy mysteries might not want anything to do with a fire demon for an enforcer.

Well, I didn’t know how well The Body in the Attic would sell when I started my second series, did I?  It came as a wonderful, happy surprise.  But I’m not sure it would have made a lot of difference.  I tend to lose interest if I read one author, one genre, over and over again, back to back.  Sorry to say, but that holds true of my writing, too.  I really do love the cozy mysteries I write, but I need to change it up once in a while, or else my writing goes flat.

I have no idea if I can find success with Muddy River, but I’d written three cozies, and I needed a witch or two to break things up.  And it worked.  I’m ready to dig into serious rewrites for Jazzi and Ansel’s fourth book now.

Whatever you’re writing, whatever your writing habits, have a great week of it!

 

Great Advice For Reading To and Writing For Middle Grade!

My fellow Scribe and good friend, Kathy Palm, just finished writing a book for Middle Grade and is sending it out to agents now.  I wish her great luck.  I got a chance to critique it, and there was nothing much to critique.  The book was WONDERFUL.

She shares her view on Middle Grade books here.  And it’s great advice!  If you read to your kids while they were growing up, this will give you the warm and fuzzies, like it did me.

https://www.katejfoster.com/talking-middle-grade/its-about-possibilities