I am featured on the California Coldblood Books blog today, talking about how the original Star Wars trilogy was a major influence on my writing, particularly on The Demon Within.
I am featured on the California Coldblood Books blog today, talking about how the original Star Wars trilogy was a major influence on my writing, particularly on The Demon Within.
I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for The Demon Within.
It’s been a productive weekend. I’m ironing out the draft, making sure all the transitions are clear, smoothing out scenes. I’m proud of myself, because I managed to work the title of book 2 into one scene 😉
My final deadline is December 1. I’m sure my editor will make tweaks after that, but that’s when I have to get my final in to him. That’s the version that will be going out for review. I’m hoping to be done sooner than that.
Part of my problem is that I’ve been going in the marathon pace for so long, I don’t know if I have the energy to sprint to the finish. Nonetheless, the finish isn’t far away.
After that…I think I’ll need to work on some other stuff, away from the Dale world for a while. Sort of a palate cleanser. I’ve been wanting to write a holiday romance. Obviously, even if I manage to accomplish that, it wouldn’t be out until next year, but I might as well take advantage of the spirit of the season and all the Hallmark movies for inspiration.
Problem is, I don’t know if I can write a straight romance without killing a whole bunch of people.
(Note to any law enforcement entities reading this: I only kill fictional people, I swear.)
(Addendum to note to any law enforcement entities reading this: …but I do kill a lot of fictional people.)
I miss writing for fun. I miss writing with no pressure. I need to do that for a minute before I can give myself back to Dale and company.
As for what comes next as far as The Demon Within goes…I’m not exactly sure. Promotional stuff. Reviews and interviews, I hope. Maybe a release party? This is the first time I’ve done this, folks. I am flying completely blind–and largely panicked.
This is what my next several months look like:
December 16–closing on a house
April 12–my first book gets published
July 2–I am getting married
Excuse me while I go breathe into a paper bag.
So it’s National Novel Writing Month again.
I am not participating this year. Much as I would love to try it again, I’m still finishing up edits on The Demon Within. My final deadline is December 1, and I’m hoping to get it done sooner.
But I have participated a couple of times before, and I won back in 2009. Although that particular story never went anywhere, I always look back on that month and that time with fondness. I consider it the beginning of the “modern era” of my writing. (That sounds horribly pretentious, doesn’t it?) I had just gotten out of a long-term relationship, so I had more time to write. Moreover, it was the first time since I had graduated from college that I really gave myself permission to write, and permission to live my life the way that I wanted to. I realized that the only person keeping me from the writing career I really wanted was me, and that I needed to live my life on my terms. I couldn’t let a day job or unsupportive loved ones stop me. I needed to do this for me.
In other words, NaNo 2009 was the equivalent of opening a dam. I think, had I not participated in NaNo that year, I would not have completed–or maybe not even begun–the books I’ve completed since then.
I don’t know what my words of advice will be worth, but I can tell you that a few things helped me that year. Since we’re already a week into NaNo 2015, I don’t know how much they will help. However, there’s always 2016…
—Have an idea ahead of time. You have to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Nothing is more intimidating than staring at a blank computer screen, knowing you have 1,556 words to get in, and having no idea what to write. I’ve always been more of a pantser than a plotter, but before I start writing anything–regardless of whether it’s NaNo or not–I have to have some kind of idea of a beginning, middle, and end. Your month is only limited to actual story words. You can do as much thinking, as much plotting, as much outlining, as much inventing as you want before November 1.
—Try to get ahead of the game early. The first couple of days, when I was all pumped up and motivated, I got a LOT of words done. That helped me later on, when I was in the sludgy middle section and couldn’t manage to force the words out.
—If you don’t live alone, prepare your family for what’s going on. I had just gotten out of a relationship when I started NaNo that year. For the first time in my adult life, I was living on my own, and it was amazing. Living alone gave me the freedom to do what I wanted, when I wanted, and be answerable to no one.
Fast forward six years, and I am now living with my fiancé. Oddly enough, he enjoys spending time with me. As I’ve been working on the edits for The Demon Within, I haven’t been able to spend as much time with him, which is kind of a bummer. Luckily, he’s very understanding (which is, I think, a must for your partner when you’re a writer). NaNo is like that: you’re on tight deadlines, and you have you schedule your date nights and Netflix and Chill times sparingly. That said…
–Don’t forget to have personal time. It can be very tempting while you’re doing NaNo to write to the point of exhaustion, forget your friends and loved ones exist, and basically kill yourself for 30 days. Don’t do that. The point of NaNo is to get yourself writing, not to give yourself a nervous breakdown.
—Take chances with your writing. You may have a plan. Maybe you have a detailed outline and character sketches and notes galore. But don’t be afraid to toss it all out the window, say, “Screw it,” and kill someone unexpectedly. Or whatever. This is a lesson I continue to employ in my writing now. I can’t tell you how many characters in The Demon Within ended up dead who weren’t originally killed, how many scenes popped up unexpectedly, how many characters developed out of narrative necessity. You may have a plan, but sometimes plans change. And that’s okay. If it doesn’t work, you can always go and change it back later. Don’t self-censor at this point.
–Have fun! This seems so obvious…but at times, it’s oh-so-difficult. Writing is work, and no matter how much I enjoy the process, it’s not fun all the time. But NaNo, I feel, is more like skydiving than neat, orderly novel writing. I don’t even know that you should be thinking about publication while your writing your NaNo novel (though I totally was). I feel like it should be more just getting out the words, letting them fall on the page where they may. We all started writing because we liked creating people and worlds and stories. Maybe this 30 days should be about bringing the joy back into writing again.
Like I said, that novel I wrote back in 2009 never went anywhere. I’m tempted to brush it off one of these days to see what I can make of it. But I have never regretted the process of writing it, because I know if I had not, I would not be where I am with my writing today.
In honor of finishing (!!!) the bear of a rewrite on the middle section, I decided to post something in honor of one-line Wednesday.
I’m cheating a little bit, because it’s actually two lines.
John opened his eyes. I met his gaze. “Are you a demon?” I asked.
He laughed. “You mean you don’t know? I’m not a demon. You are.” Then he passed out.
What is it with men? Always falling asleep at the most inconvenient times, like when you want to cuddle, or when you need more information on your demonic heritage. How rude!
I’ve been hearing about the new Netflix series, “Jessica Jones,” for the last couple of months now. And I. Can’t. Wait. It kind of looks like “Veronica Mars” (which I also loved) meets Marvel. It can’t be a coincidence that Krysten Ritter, who plays Jessica, also played a supporting role on “Veronica Mars,” and returned in the movie last year? No, absolutely not.
But I think what really appeals to me about it is that, just from what I can glean from the trailers and the little bit I’ve read about the character’s backstory in the comics, Jessica seems…incredibly screwed up. Also, incredibly badass.
Did she just take out a bar full of huge, drunken men; turn on Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation”; and take a shot while her knuckles were still covered in blood??? Oh yeah, I think she did.
Note the whiskey bottle on the nightstand. Also, I kind of want to do that to my alarm clock every day. Of course, my alarm clock doesn’t go off at 3:00 in the afternoon. (I’m also loving the dissonance between the sickly sweet song and the clock smashing. Awesome.)
Of course, there’s also David Tennant, which always helps…
Yes, he’s the bad guy, but even in this voiceover he’s still almost unbearably sexy. And is it weird that I half expected him to offer to whisk Jessica off in the TARDIS to see all of time and space? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?
But I think one of the biggest reasons this series appeals to me is because it seems, more often than not, that heroines have to be perfect and likeable all the time. I do believe that imperfect or unlikeable female characters have a harder time being accepted in our cultural landscape than male ones, and it bothered me.
The Demon Within is coming out in less than seven months now, and it has one of those imperfect heroines. Dale is, quite frankly, really screwed up, and I spend so much time in her head that I forget sometimes just how screwed up she is. She blacks out and kills people. And even if it’s people who, arguably, “deserve” it, normal, psychologically healthy people don’t do this, because we realize it’s not the way to live in a functional society. And instead of facing the music the first time she killed–when she was still a minor and might have gotten off easier–she changed identities and went on the run, avoiding the law for more than a decade and killing six more people.
In spite of all this, I find Dale to be, at times, both likeable and sympathetic. She wants so badly to be a normal person, but her own mind is out of her control sometimes. On the other hand, she’s got a core of protectiveness for others that she can’t eliminate, and it’s seeing other people being hurt/victimized that trigger her blackouts.
But ever since I wrote the first draft, I worried that readers would have a hard time accepting a character like Dale.
But seeing the trailers for “Jessica Jones”–just the fact that this show exists–shows me that maybe there’s room for characters like Dale: fundamentally flawed, fucked-up, and female.
PS: Can I say that I’m absolutely loving the depiction of NYC shown in the below teaser. It reminds me a lot of Sin City, but a little more cartoon-y. Not quite realistic but totally atmospheric. It seems like the creators realize NYC can be a character in and of itself.
One of the biggest problems I have, as a writer, is self-discipline.
Part of it is just economy of time/energy. I did not receive an advance for The Demon Within; even if I had, as a first-time, unproven author, it likely wouldn’t have been much. So I maintain a full-time job in order to pay my bills. My ultimate goal, though, is to be able to write full-time.
But between working, wedding planning, cat-wrangling, maintaining some semblance of a social life, trying to get to the gym every so often, and the necessity of food and sleep, sometimes I’m just too exhausted at the end of the day to do much writing.
But that’s just an excuse, really. Here are my main problems.
—Inability to focus. I’m ready to sit down and write and then–squirrel!
—The internet is evil. I’m a bit of a social media junkie, but it doesn’t matter–I can go down the rabbit hole of the interwebs anytime, anywhere. See above.
—First draft vs. revision. I love writing first drafts. They’re new and shiny and exciting. I feel like anything can happen. But I finished the first draft of The Demon Within back in December of 2010. I’ve tinkered with it endlessly since then. There are still moments of excitement and newness and discovery, but they are much fewer and farther between.
I feel like novel revising is like playing Jenga–which I was never very good at! Every time you move one part, you risk the whole rest of the tower falling down around you.
I don’t get those moments of transcendence, that thrill of discovery, the way I do with first drafting because I keep thinking, “But if I change X on page 23, then it’ll screw up Y on page 192. And don’t even talk to me about Z on page 212. There’s no way I’m going to discuss page 212 yet!” Every change means more work, with a deadline that’s beginning to loom scarily close.
—Writing is work…and sometimes work sucks. This is something I find very difficult to discuss with my non-writer friends because, for better or worse, they usually just don’t get it. “But you love writing,” they say. Yes, I do. But sometimes I hate it, too. I hate it when I get stuck and I can’t figure out how to get out of it. I hate it when I’ve been working on a particular scene for a long time and I’m bored as hell of it but it has to get done, and I hate not knowing whether my boredom is going to become the readers’ boredom. I hate it when I have a deadline that I’m pushing again, and my fingers are hovering over the keyboard with absolutely nothing coming out of them.
Think of it this way. You have a job. You may like your job. If you’re lucky, you even love your job. But no matter how much you like or love your job, it’s still work, and even work you love is not the same as sipping margaritas on the beach. Sometimes it’s just easier to browse the latest cute cat videos on Facebook, and that, unlike writing, is not work, and the dopamine hit is instant gratification.
Some days, writing can be amazing. Other days, it can be difficult, exhausting, and frustrating as hell. Which actually segues pretty nicely into my next thought.
—Performance anxiety. The Demon Within will be my first published novel. Twenty-five years of writing are culminating in this little book. And that is…stressful. I think I’m having the writer’s equivalent of stage fright, and it’s manifesting in an inability to focus as much as I want to and produce as much as I need to.
I’m writing this down in my blog because I know I can’t be the only writer with this problem. Yet it seems like when I read other writers’ social media pages, it’s all “I wrote 9,000 words today,” and “I just finished my 14th book while working a full-time job and raising eight children and also pursuing my other dream of becoming a rock star.” Yikes. I mean…great for them, but I’m crazy envious. I can barely manage to come home, feed my cats, and turn my computer on without passing out on my keyboard.
The book will get done. But man, I’d be thankful to any suggestions on how to get it done faster and with less stress. Any programs to deactivate social media sites. (I had one once upon a time, but it screwed up my computer so badly that my computer geek fiancé took one look at it and said he had no idea why I’d ever downloaded the thing.) Cutting off social media won’t cure the problem, but it might help. Musical cures? Environmental suggestions? Scheduling changes? Getting up earlier is not an option; I’ve tried this, but I work an early shift and I’m just too damn incoherent before 6am to do something as finely tuned as revision. Besides, I’m not getting enough sleep anyway–I’m not kidding about the passing out on my keyboard thing–so methinks this will just exacerbate the problem.
I’d also like to hear from anyone else who has experienced these feelings, whether it’s to offer suggestions or just to commiserate. I know I must not be the only one.
Now that were inching closer and closer to the release date, I thought it was about time I started posting some (non-spoilery) snippets.
One of the biggest things that I’m still working on is the middle section. I hate, hate middles with a passion. I’m good at beginnings and endings, but I often get lost somewhere in the middle, and the story starts to meander with no urgency. This is something I’ve been working on with my editor, and I believe the middle is in better shape than when I started. But I’m still working.
Here’s a little snippet of something I worked on tonight. Caveats: it’s unedited, so it may not look exactly as it looks now in the final version of the book. (Honestly, there’s a chance it might not make it to the book, so I can’t discount that, either.) If it’s got typos, misspellings, grammatical errors, etc., it’s all on me. Like I said: this is not the final version. But I’m kind of proud of it, so I wanted to share.
Okay, here’s what you need to know. Dale (our heroine) and John (our…something, heh) are at an amusement park. It’s nighttime, and the park is closed. The brackets indicate where I edited spoilery bits out. And that…I think is all I’m going to tell you right now 😛
The metal fence around the carousel was taller than I was, tapering to sharp points on the top, and the slats didn’t provide much in the way of footholds. I struggled to climb over, the sound of John chasing me getting closer and closer all the time. Finally, I made it over, and I ran across the carousel to the other side of the fence. This time around I knew what to do, and I made it more easily—though the sharp points did catch the fabric of my shirt and tear a hole into it. I ignored it and jumped to the ground.
About five seconds after I jumped the fence I heard it rattle behind me as John arrived at the carousel. Damn. How was he so close? […] “I’m impressed, Little Demon,” I heard him call. “You used the geography around you to your advantage. But it’s not enough. Not when I’m your opponent.”
I couldn’t help it. I turned around and looked at him. John had backed up until he was about 50 feet away from the fence. Then, he sprinted back toward the carousel. When he got near the fence line, he leapt into the air, sailing easily over the pointy spikes and landing in a crouch. For a second, all I could do was stare. “Holy shit.”
He rose and gave me a cocky grin.
So I got back the other day from the Romance Writers of America Conference in New York. To be honest, I felt a little trepidation about going. Romance is not my primary genre (although all my works have romantic subplots in them, and I am considering writing something more romance-centric). Furthermore, going to the conference meant I had to miss going to the beach with my boyfriend and his family, which was great fun last year, so I was kind of bummed about that. To be honest, the main reason I decided to go to this—as opposed to another writing conference—was because Nalini Singh, who is one of my favorite authors, was going to be a keynote speaker.
I’m so glad I went.
I already live Tweeted many of the workshops, so I think, for this blog post, I’m going to keep to the highlights, for me.
I got to meet Carolyn Crane! I became “online friends” with Carolyn years ago after I interviewed her for CC2Konline.com. But I was a fan of Carolyn’s long before I was her friend. I had read the first two books in her Disillusionist urban fantasy trilogy, and I was so blown away by them that I sucked up my courage, wrote her an e-mail, and said, “Can I pretty please interview you please?”
Anyway, after I stopped tripping all over myself, we actually became pretty good virtual friends, and she’s been incredibly supportive of my writing career. We got to spend several hours talking about writing, books, the romance community, and our cats. It was so cool spending time with someone I’m not only a huge fan of, but someone whose career I’ve come to admire and respect. I love that Carolyn has managed to jump seamlessly into a new genre. Her latest book, the RITA-nominated romantic suspense novel Behind the Mask, is awesome. Romantic suspense isn’t a genre that I read often, but I love that Carolyn can make her books both sexy and action-packed, and that her heroines are just as intelligent and badass as her heroes. No damsels in distress here! This book is a perfect example of that.
At the signing on Wednesday night, I got to meet Jeaniene Frost, who was nice enough to take a picture with her phone and Tweet it to me because mine had died. I also got signed books from Kristen Callihan, whose Darkest London steampunk books are completely amazing, and Thea Harrison, whose Elder Races novels made me fall in love with a dragon. Literally. I didn’t think it was possible to lust after a reptile, but it is.
And to top it all off, I got an autographed book from Nalini Singh at the signing! And a picture! She was so nice and gracious, and asked me about my own writing. I’m afraid I pretty much fangirl vomited all over her.
That was all amazing. But here’s the main thing I took away from this conference.
This was the first conference where I’ve spent more time at the career- and marketing-oriented workshops than the craft- and getting published-oriented workshops. The authors who spoke were successful in their genres—not runaway successes necessarily, but steady, hardworking authors who had been writing and publishing for a long time, weathering the changes in the publishing world, and still making a living at it.
And after hearing them speak, I thought: I can do this.
This is the first time I’ve felt like success in the publishing world isn’t some magical, alchemical formula, or random luck. Yes, there probably is an element of luck associated with J.K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer-type success. But for other authors, it’s just a lot of hard work, flexibility, and devotion to your craft.
Here are some of the main points I took away.
*The publishing world, for better or worse, is changing very quickly right now. Be flexible, be willing to try different things, and be prepared to misstep sometimes. When all else fails, come back to the writing. That’s why you’re in this business in the first place.
*Figure out where your priorities are, where and how to best spend your time. You can’t do everything. Once you have some success as a writer, consider hiring someone to assist you on things like marketing and publicity. Your main focus should be on the writing.
*One thing you should not hire someone else to do is fan interaction. Fans in 2015 expect a genuine connection with the authors they love.
*As far as social media goes…some of the authors/bloggers there liked Facebook, some liked Twitter, some liked Instagram, and some liked Pinterest (which I still have no idea what to do with). Use what works for you, and leave the rest alone. Set aside time to spend on publicity/fan interaction on social media, because it tends to be a giant time suck.
*Put together a newsletter, but don’t abuse it. Make sure your subscribers know when they’re going to get a newsletter (e.g. once a month, only when a new book is released, etc.)
*For slower writers (i.e. me), you can use your website to promote other authors and books you like, or post excerpts or blurbs from upcoming books. That way, you don’t fade out of readers’ memories.
*Find good critique partners! (This is a big one. I’m still working on it.)
*Writing is a very solitary profession. Build a community of people who can cheer you on, stay positive, help you, and give advice.
Overall, it was a great conference, and a very warm and welcoming atmosphere. Next year’s conference will be in San Diego. I’m already planning to be there.
The publication date of The Demon Within has been pushed back to April 12, 2016.
It was purely a marketing decision: the distributor, Publishers Group West, wants to promote it in tandem with some other titles that are being released at the same time. And obviously, from my perspective, anything that is going to put the book in a better marketing and sales position is a good thing for me.
That said, I do have some mixed feelings. On the one hand, this will give me more time to build a platform and get the book out for advance reviews so that by the time it comes out in April, I will (hopefully!) already have some good buzz going. Plus, by then, I should already be well on my way through book 2, so it should also be easier for me to keep the momentum going. Also, no one (besides the people I know personally) is waiting for this book, so better for it to be released when it will make as big a splash as possible.
On the other hand, I’ve been working on DW for a long time, and I was really looking forward to getting it out in the wild this year, in time to give away a few copies to my friends and family for Christmas. (Of course, that has to be the most narcissistic Christmas gift ever. “Merry Christmas, Random Coworker! As a testament to our working relationship, I present to you…a copy of my book. Which I got for free. And you’ll now feel obligated to read out of guilt, even though I know you’ve never read a fantasy book in your life and have no desire to do so. But see, I signed it, too. I even personalized it, so you can’t sell it on eBay if I become some famous bestseller. You’re welcome!” Yeah, that would go over well.)
But, my own vanity aside, this is a good thing. I had been stressing about finishing the final tweaks on the manuscript, and this gives me a lot more breathing room. I could almost feel a weight lifting off of my chest when my editor told me. (Of course, talk to me again in a few months, and it might be a different story.)
The image above…is not my cover. I have seen the cover, and it’s awesome. But I can’t post the real one yet. Even so, I wanted to have an image to associate with The Demon Within, and so this is it…for now. It was one of the demo covers my publisher came up with, and I loved the images of the lions from the New York City Public Library on the front. (The library features very prominently in one of the scenes of the book.) But the cover the publisher selected is much more eye catching, and I have no idea how they’re going to equal or top it for the rest of the series. I’d love to show it to you…but not yet.
So for now, a pretend cover! Uh…ta-da?
One of my favorite urban fantasy writers, Ilona Andrews, posted this yesterday, announcing a spinoff novel of the popular Kate Daniels series starring fan favorite villain, Hugh D’Ambray. Here’s the blurb, pulled directly from Andrews’ site:
Hugh d’Ambray, Preceptor of the Iron Dogs, Warlord of the Builder of Towers, bowed to only one man. Now his immortal, nearly omnipotent master is gone and Hugh must carve a new place for himself and his people in the post-apocalyptic world where magic comes and goes in waves. With former allies ready to tear him apart, Hugh is forced to make alliances to preserve the Order of Iron Dogs, warriors who would follow him anywhere.
Serafina Price is the head witch of the Midwestern Covens. She is powerful, devious, and smart. Her people think she is a goddess, her enemies call her Snake. Tasked with protection of her people, she is trapped between the magical heavy weights about to collide and plunge the entire region into war that human authorities have no power to stop. Desperate to preserve the covens, she would accept help from the devil himself.
They detest each other, yet they need each other to survive. How can two people famous for betraying their former allies cement their agreement without a shadow of a doubt?
It turned out to be an April Fool’s joke. Eagle-eyed fans noticed that one of the “blurbs” came from a fictional romance writer who had been mentioned within the series. How meta.
But maybe the joke’s on Andrews. Fan reaction to the fake book was largely positive, and largely disappointed when they realized it was a joke. The fans want this book. I want this book, because it sounds completely amazing.
Redemption stories are a common trope within the romance genre. One of my personal favorites is The Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas. At the end of the previous book in the series, the hero, Sebastian, is a womanizer and a kidnapper who threatens to rape the heroine. By the end of his own book, he’s a devoted husband head-over-heels in love with his wife. You can’t help but root for him. So yes: it can be done.
Let’s just ignore the fact that Hugh D’Ambray is probably a sociopath. That can all be cured with the love of a good woman, right? He’s probably just misunderstood.
(Who am I kidding? I still totally want this book.)
I’d probably be able to come up with more examples of romance redemption, except this:
I’ve been working my butt off, and I’m almost done. I’ve officially passed the point on my rewrites where my editor has said, “This is how long I want it to be.” And I’m still going. This was a challenging, and exhausting, process to me in so many ways. Because of changes I made to the plot, I have basically had to rewrite about 90% of the book.
I’m almost there. Just need one final push.