Moving Forward in 2014

projectpicFor me, the year 2013 was groundbreaking. My debut novel came out in June (digital in May), and I could officially call myself an author. Now that the new year has begun, I continue my journey in the publishing world. The sequel to MY SISTER’S REAPER comes out this spring. It’s scheduled for May, but you never know what hiccups might arise; the print version release of MY SISTER’S REAPER was pushed back three weeks last year, so I’ve come to expect bumps in the road. But revisions for the sequel (name to be announced at a later date) are coming along nicely, so I don’t foresee any delays. Fingers crossed. I’m also drafting another book for the series, but it’s not contracted yet. So again, fingers crossed. Other than that, I wrote a dark piece for an anthology that comes out this fall. Oh, and there’s a super secret project I’m working on that’s sort of half pitched. It’s a collaborative project, but it’s also not contracted. Let’s call it a “we’ll see” project. So by my count, that calls for four accounts of crossing fingers. 2014 is the finger cramping year for me.

Stuff your Stocking…

December…a freebie month. Ugh, believe it or not, I actually like it better when I have a topic to work with. Sounds weird from an author, I know. I should love the fact I can let myself write about whatever my mind wanders to…but my mind often wanders to places I shouldn’t write about so topics are a good thing.  (That sounds bad…don’t judge me! Ha!)

Since it’s the month of giving, I thought I’d share five books you should ask Santa to leave in your stocking this year. I’m focusing on self or indie published books that don’t often get the attention they deserve.

So, here we go. The five books that should be in your Christmas stocking—in no particular order—are:

13030422“The Sary Series” by Meradeth Houston.  “Colors Like Memories” and “The Chemistry of Fate.” Okay, okay, that’s two books, but it’s one series so it counts as one. Meradeth is a fan-freakin’-tasic author. She has a way of weaving words

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together that just makes them sing. I love to read her writing. Oh, and my favorite thing about Meradeth’s writing, and the thing I get most excited about when I sit down to read something she’s written, is her first sentence of her novels. She has a flair for writing the best ever first sentences. I mean, who doesn’t want to keep reading when a book starts out with a sentence like this:

“I greeted his tombstone the way I always did— with a swift

kick.”  (Colors Like Memories)

That makes me want to know what the heck is going on! Meradeth is one author you need to watch…she’s going places. Plus, she’s just an all-around great person

“At Any Price” by Brenna Aubrey.  This book really surprised me. Honestly when IPageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00071] received the ARC I wasn’t looking forward to reading it. But, WOW, I’m so glad I did. Itwas such a great story. Brenna blew me away with the story and her writing. The story was original. The plot was well thought out.  One thing I loved the most is that the male lead was a good guy. He wasn’t the “typical” bad boy who has a miraculous turnaround at the end of the story (not that I don’t like those stories too). Adam was just a great guy and I loved that.

Brenna wrote strong, likable characters that I fell in love with. It’s an incredible story about giving up control to grab on to love. It’s definitely worth the time to read, but be warned: once you pick it up you won’t want to put it down until you reach the last page. So clear your schedule! I’ve also been lucky enough to “meet” Brenna through email and she is a sweet and kind person. Definitely give this book, the first in a planned trilogy, a try.

15787222“Quest of the Hart” Mary Waibel’s debut young adult reverse fairy tale retelling. I love fairy tale retellings, but I especially loved this one since it was done in reverse which was just outstanding!  The story Mary weaved was not only entertaining, interesting and engaging, but also empowering for girls. Instead of the prince saving the helpless princess, the princess was the one who saved the prince. This type of message is so important for today’s generation of young women, and Mary delivered it flawlessly. It was truly empowerment on paper!

“The Prophecy” by Erin Albert. Okay, I have to admit—I haven’t actually read this book theprophecy333x500yet. It’s one I want in my stocking and since someone in my family usually buys me a Kindle gift card of some sort for Christmas, I plan to get it. But I know Erin. She’s my Beta and CP so I know how she writes and because of that I have absolutely no doubt that this book is going to be awesome. It’s a young adult high fantasy and the first installment in the “The Fulfillment Series.”

18369048“Addicted Series” by Becca and Krista Ritchie. Okay, this is another series so technically it’s more than one book, but since it’s my blog post I say it counts as one. 🙂  I won’t list all the books, because not only are therebooks in the series, but there are companion books, too. So I’ll stick to the three I’ve read: “Addicted To You,” “Ricochet,and “Addicted For Now.” These books are hard to explain in just a couple paragraphs because they are 1) so, so good and 2) deal with so many emotions and complex situations. Here’s what I wrote on ricochetmy blog for the first book: Raw. Gritty. The nasty side of the upper echelon of society. “Addicted To You.” It’s surely going to be one of those books that people either love or hate. In my case, I loved it. Bottom line: Definitely worth the time. Characters are well written. Plot is well thought out. But continue with caution, this is not a book that glosses over the world of addiction. You’re gonna get it like it is. And that’s what makes the book so great!

17969317The quick synopsis of the books is: She’s addicted to sex and he’s addicted to booze and it’s the story about how they hide their addictions from everyone around them, then how they work to overcome their addictions. Finally, just when they are adjusting to their new life and learning to live and manage their addictions, it’s a story about how one person pulls the rug out from under them and everything comes crashing down–and how they deal with the situation. In short, it’s one of the best series I’ve read. It’s definitely for 18 and above because of the subject matter, but everything in the book is written tastefully and there are no gratuitous sexual situations—everything fits the storyline. It’s definitely a series that should be in your stocking.

Honorable Mention:

13554235 Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000046_00068] Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000046_00066]

The writing thesauruses by Marsha Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. These books never leave my desk—ever. They include: “The Emotion Thesaurus,” “The Negative Trait Thesaurus,” and “The Positive Trait Thesaurus.” If you haven’t checked these out, give them a try. They are great resources. I love them.

Those are the five (plus the honorable mentions) indie press or self-published books I think Santa should leave in everyone’s stockings this year. I hope you check them out, if you haven’t already. And in a shameless plug, you can always stick a copy of “PODs in your stocking too.

So, what books are you hoping to find in your stocking this year? Whatever you find, I hope it includes love, joy and wonderful moments with your family and friends.

Merry Christmas everyone,

Michelle 🙂

Information Please

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Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons, (c) pjern (The Indianapolis Public Library atrium)

I enter the building and nearly wilt in relief. It must be nearly a 100 degrees outside. At least it’s cool in here. I soak in the blessedly cool AC as I get my bearings and approach the front desk.

It’s pretty much every big-city library.  This one’s clean and modern, but otherwise it’s all just stacks of books and scattered tables with people reading.

The Information desk is well-marked with a large metallic sign that scrolls around the ceiling above it and says: I N F O R M A T I O N all around it. The lady at the desk is turned away, facing her computer.

“Excuse me?” I ask. Really, I just need one thing: answers — in a book maybe. Surely they can help me here. I feel like I’m going crazy.

She spins to face me, a pretty woman with a blond side braid and a smile of greeting. “May I help you?”

“Listen, weird things have been happen–”

She flickers out of view,. Time stutters, skipping forward a sec, then back. She’s there again still smiling, her eyebrows lifted in a pleasant expression. I glance around and it’s the same thing, a faint little flicker of time. Is anyone really here?

It’s happening again. I’m not sure what’s real any more.

There’s nothing wrong with my eyes. I’ve always had perfect vision. And there’s nothing wrong with my mind. There can’t be.

I swallow my feelings of unease and ask, “I need a book.”

“Right this way,” she says, and I follow her into the stacks. She seems to know without asking what I’m looking and despite the little time-flicker-thingy, I’m relieved. Finally, someone’s going to help me.

* * *

Update:

The book I’ve been reading is WIRED FOR STORY by Lisa Cron. Good stuff! 🙂

The first line of the first page is:

“In the second it takes you to read this sentence, your senses are showering you with over 11,000,000 pieces of information.”

–Lisa Cron, WIRED FOR STORY

Flash Fiction Challenge: Dancing with the Duke of War

This month, each Scene 13 author has been challenged to write a flash fiction piece based on the first image we find when we Google the last noun in the first sentence of the book we’re currently reading. At least we don’t have to walk uphill in the snow both ways to school while we’re doing this. (If we do, don’t tell me.) I read Moonlight & Mechanicals on September 4th, right before writing this scene, and the word I wound up with is “duke.” Here’s my image (Prince Phillip!); I attempted to link it to the original location, but you can also find it here.

For this scene, I’ve borrowed two characters, Gwen and Jenna, from Scattered Seasons, which I hope to have ready for publication next year. (I’m currently revising Seasons’ Beginning, the prequel to the Season Avatars series.) Duke Lex and this scene are new, but I may use them in the book. Technically, he isn’t “Duke of War,” but the phrase fits so well for this challenge I wanted to use it for the post title anyway.

 

The herald at the door blew a trumpet for attention. “Recently returned from his campaign in the Spice Islands, His Royal Highness Lex ro Fipt-Challen, Duke of Snolen and Avatar of War!”

The king’s younger brother marched into the room, his black jacket covered with enough medals to drown him. More impressive was his aura, a red bloodier than the Fall Avatar’s clear scarlet. Gwen schooled her expression into politeness as she curtsied, even though she wanted to usurp the Four’s justice and drain the life out of him. This man, acting for his god, thought nothing of sending thousands off to die and suffer in conflict, in direct opposition to the healing Gwen gave on behalf of her beloved goddess, Spring.

“Still a fine-looking man for his age,” Jenna muttered beside her.

“Jenna! Don’t you realize what he does?”

“Don’t you realize he’s coming straight for you?” She sounded envious.

Gwen stubbornly kept her gaze on the floor until a deep voice said, “Lady Gwendolyn lo Havil? Or do you prefer your title of Ava Spring?”

She slowly lifted her head to stare at him. A bit on the stout side, as if his love of fine food and wine was winning over his daily sword training. A high forehead, dark hair, and the hooked nose all members of the conquering Fipt family bore with pride. Not a set of features she admired, but his intense eyes made his face compelling.

“I am the Ava Spring, Your Royal Highness.” she said.

He smiled, his teeth in surprisingly good condition. “Our titles of Avi and Ava are of equal rank. Perhaps you could call me Lex.”

“That seems so…forward.” Confusion made her leave off a title. “We’re barely acquainted.”

“Then we must rectify the situation. Will you dance?”

Without waiting for an answer, he took her gloved hand and led her to the center of the ballroom. The musicians in their balcony overhead began a waltz. Jewels flashed around them as other couples took to the floor.

Gwen allowed the Avi War to lead her through the steps of the dance. The pressure on his arm around her waist both confined and thrilled her. This royal duke, this man, possessed more confidence and inner strength than all the other youths she’d danced with so far. Yet she was glad his touch didn’t trigger a telepathic link between them, the way it would between her and Jenna.  To discourage further intimacy, Gwen let the temperature of her outermost layer of skin drop to just above the point where she would develop frostbite. She could heal her skin when the dance was done.

“Are you always so … frosty, Ava–Gwen? Gwendolyn?” the Avi War–Lex– asked. He jutted his chin toward her bare forearm.  “Is that why you bear no marriage tattoo? Most women of your rank would be married by your age.”

“I have other duties, Avi.”

“Yes, of course. A pity you can’t leave Challen. I could use you on campaign.”

Gwen twitched her skirt so it wouldn’t brush against his trousers. “I would prefer not to be used that way, Avi.”

He frowned. “Please call me Lex. You would refuse to heal? Isn’t that what Avatars of the Goddess of Spring do?”

“Of course, but I prefer that there was no need for the healing in the first place.”

“War is as natural as the seasons of the Challen Gods and Goddesses.” He guided her into a turn. “War gives us reasons to improve our technology. It gives men no longer needed for farming a purpose. Why, it’s even inspired some of your former Avatars to come up with new healing methods ordinary people can use. War drives the growth and decline of nations. War may not be pretty or something a lady such as yourself would approve of, but it has its place in the world, Gwendolyn. If you were more acquainted with it, the way I am, you would understand.”

She bit back a laugh. “How does your God pick His Avatars?”

Lex arched an eyebrow. “Why, from members of the Fipt family, of course.”

The musicians began the final refrain, and Gwen spun under Lex’s arm. “But He doesn’t have a few dedicated Avatars like the Four do, those who serve Him life after life?” she asked.

“No, but it’s not the same for the Season Avatars, is it?”

“Our magic is from the soul, not the body. We retain our magic–and our memories.” Now Gwen let some of her anger shine in her eyes. “I was an old Avi Spring about to retire when your Fipt ancestors invaded Challen. I remember all too well the festering wounds, the soldiers I couldn’t save, the ones I healed physically but not inside.” I remember shielding the next Ava Spring from the conquerors who thought she was just another prize for their pleasure, not a servant of Challen’s Four. “So, don’t instruct me in the glamor of war.”

The music ended. Conscious of the other nobles observing them, Gwen sank into a curtsey and let her skin return to normal. “Your Royal Highness.”

“Ava.” He bent his head–the most respect a royal would show to anyone outside the ruling family–but he kept his gaze on her the entire time, studying her as if she were another opposing general he had to face. “We must continue our discussion later.” He turned to find another partner.

The War Avatars were master strategists. Gwen wondered what war he waged that required him to engage with her on the dance floor, but even if she had erred in speaking so bluntly, she wouldn’t withdraw her words.

Access Your Creativity

“Life isn’t about finding yourself.  Life is about creating yourself.” — George Bernard Shaw

Whenever I teach freshman composition courses, I like to start the class with a quote on the board. Sometimes we talk about it, sometimes we write about it, and sometimes it’s just there. I think it’s a good way to get fledgling writers thinking because before you can write anything, you have to engage your brain. We think first, then we write.

writingAs a writer, I always struggle with the thinking more than the writing. Some writers come to the page full of ideas and struggle to figure out how to write them. I come to the page ready to write, but often wonder who and what to write about next. I think it’s because I’ve already developed a lot of stories. I’m at the point in my career where I need to continually recharge my creativity.

If you’re new to writing, you’ll be surprised how soon this happens! You think you’ve got enough story ideas for a lifetime, but each book requires so many characters, so much conflict and so many layers of backstory. You tap a ton of creative resources each time you put you pen to paper. It’s important to recharge your ideas early and often before you turn to the blank screen and realize—“ack! I’ve got nothing!”

flowerNot that this has ever happened to me. Cough, cough. But I was fortunate enough to attend a fabulous workshop on maintaining creativity early in my writing journey and I’ve revisited the tips from my old mentor Dewanna Pace many times over the years. She advised a lot of practical things, really breaking down how to experience the world around you in a new way. There are the more obvious things like checking out the newspaper, or different news/magazines than you normally would and visiting new places. But she also helped me to see how to experience the world around me in a different way.

Rowan AtkinsonFor example, turn off the television and watch the actors. Learn about their moods and feelings through their gestures. Or explore the world through the five senses, really focusing on sounds or smells. Describe them. Write about them. Think about how your character would experience those same things. What smells have strong memory associations for them and why? What sounds would scare them and why?

eavesdropWriters learn early on in their journeys that as chroniclers of human drama, we must be keen observers. That means staring conversations with strangers. Eavesdropping whenever possible. Searching for subtext within the smallest of gestures. Make it a game and you’ll feel more creative. Try the exercises when you’re not on deadline and you can really have fun with them. – Joanne

wishme***What do you do to kick start creativity? I have a copy of Karen’s debut adult romance novel, WISH ME TOMORROW for one random commenter! If you haven’t read the reviews of her fantastic book for Harlequin’s Heartwarming series, please take a moment to visit her at http://karenrock.com today!

Back to Work

Being off the grid and in a different location for nearly six weeks has been a great learning experience, even if somewhat painful in the beginning, and I still have another two weeks before I can get back into a serious writing routine (I’m currently writing this from a hotel—but hey! at least they have internet).

Now that the summer is almost over, I find myself taking another serious look at the work-related resolutions I made last January, and I’m feeling more motivated to make some changes after seeing real results (as forced as they were).

1)   My office is a chaotic disaster zone compared to the room I was in for the summer. I’ve come to realize that all my complaining (several years worth) about clutter has been nothing but a huge waste mental energy. Taking care of it once and for all would SO be worth the effort, and the energy could definitely be put to better use.

2)   With such drastic internet restrictions (and a clutter-free workspace), I experienced some serious writing progress. I think I might *gasp* shut down my browser and schedule internet time instead of checking in several times an hour.

3) I realized that I’m not getting any work done by hashing out scenes for the 40th time while I ought to be sleeping (or hiking or 4-wheeling or pretending to pay attention to what the kids are doing) on the pretense that all I’ll have to do is type it out when I get back to the computer. I’m just missing out on much needed sleep and life in general. I deserve a break! And sleep!

4)    As much as I’m dying to get back to work, I’m going to do my best to write ONLY when the kids are at school. I’ve gotten better about turning off the writer in me to put more of my attention in the real-life present. It’s a lot less stressful for everyone when I’m not trying to work at all times.

So that’s the plan and I hope it sticks! How ’bout you? If you’ve taken the summer off, do you plan to make any changes before you get going again?