Jenna’s Books

Jenna is the protagonist in a trilogy, or I thought it was a trilogy. Or it might still be a trilogy.

Jenna’s Series

It is an urban fantasy with a heavy layer of tech, rather than an eschewing of tech (which is something I want to see more of an if anyone has any great suggestions that are UF that aren’t anti-tech, bring it on!)

Book 1

The first book was written about three years ago now. It has some problems. There are a few substantial issues with it. 

  • The love interest feels a little tacked on and not crucial
  • Not enough backstory (her backstory is pretty important and I didn’t even bring it up until 3/4 of the way through, beta reader was stunned by it)
  • The secondary villain wasn’t well developed
  • The world felt fuzzy (some of this was intentional, but intentional doesn’t mean good)
  • It’s not really a full book

There are some smaller things that I think I’ve gotten better at writing in the last few years. 

Book 2

I wrote book 2 last NaNoWriMo. I wrote it with an understanding of some of these problems and believing that I’d resolve these things.

I made an assumption that these changes have happened in the first book. That love interest was cut, that the backstory was at least sprinkled throughout, that the secondary villain was …shifted, and that there was a little more structure to the world. 

Now

I was going to edit it last Camp NaNo. I was going to edit it over NaNoWriMo.

I knew part of the reason I’ve been fighting so hard to do this project is because something isn’t quite right with it. 

I finally have had a few conversations about it. I’ve done a lot of thinking. I thought I had a strategy, but even working that through I wasn’t getting anywhere. 

Partly I don’t want to just trash it because I really like the second book, I feel pretty good about that one. And it 100% does not work without the first. 

Going forward

I think my solution going forward might be to make this into the first act of the second book. The second book picks up right after the end of the first. Tying them together makes a lot of sense, and yeah, the first one isn’t a full book. The second one is fine, but it needs a little more, and putting this at the start as the first act I think would make it a lot stronger.

This is my solution today. We’ll see where the future actually goes, but I think right now at least this is the direction I want to take going forward.

That all said, right now? I’m editing another Smoke Jumper short and so I’m focused on that. It’s a good shift away from beating myself up about Jenna’s books. I’m just hoping this is the right decision this time.

2017 Goals

So last week I made a post about what I did in 2016. Now it is time for some planning goals for 2017.

Writing

My goals are 2-3 novellas, 5-10 flash pieces, 1 novel.

I’d prefer to say that I know which novel it will be. I’ve been thinking a lot about Jenna’s novel and what to do with it. I may be posting about that coming up. Still thinking.

More Smoke Jumpers pieces are absolutely in the works. One novella will be coming out this spring. I’m very excited about that. I’m hopeful for more Smoke Jumpers, and maybe something unknown as of yet. Who knows what the year will hold for words.

Podcasting

I’m going to keep at it! I love the podcast. I love the opportunity to share wonderful stories from amazing authors. Fully expect to see 52 episodes of the podcast in 2017. (And I’d love to help you share your story with the world. Looking for submissions!)

I want to keep doing what I can to share the podcast and get the word out. More marketing, more guest spots, more everything!

Narrating

My goal is to do 2 novels in 2017. Not sure if my own (unlikely) or someone else’s. I want to finish the Monsters anthology. (This is several (3-4?) more novelette length pieces I believe.) Maybe do a few more novellas (2-3). And pieces of my own of course.

Other

I’m not sure what else I should be doing. I hope this is enough. Read more. Critique more. (Part of the secret of narrating is that it is incredibly intense time with whatever I’m doing, I learn a lot.)

I want to create a better structure around a few writing things.

I also hope that 2017 brings about some kind of writing related surprise that I don’t have fully formed in my head yet. 2016 brought a few of those. (Podcast and narrating and publishing were all new and ranged on the planned/expected spectrum.) I think that something currently unexpected might happen. I kind of hope so. I hope it’s good.

(Not writing related? It could be a rough year in a lot of ways.)

I’m going to fail at NaNoWriMo

I’ve never failed at it quite like this, but wow am I going to fail.

Frankly? I’m not even trying anymore. Which super isn’t like me. 

I know what the problem is. I’m recording a novel. This…might be something I do very little of going forward. A big part of it is just how I operate, how my brain works. The project isn’t due for months, literally months. But I cannot handle having it hanging over my head so I’m pushing everything else aside it work on it. 

It gives a weirdly false impression of how I work when I do this. And I’ve done a bunch of novellas, but primarily novellas and projects that are 2 weeks of work or less.  I can get them done and have the feeling of accomplishment. (Which I super love.) But they aren’t hanging over me until I finish them (well they are, but they are much easier to be done with).

I’m working with an author I think is great and I trust to do all the right stuff or I wouldn’t be working on another novel (that wasn’t mine!) at all. But even still? I’m going to be more wary. 

So…a note to future me

This feeling of panic happens, you have to set aside all other work and record as long as you can and then edit during the week and you leave no time or brain space for other creative endeavors. It is ok to do it, but know that until you finish the project, nothing else significant will happen. Accept that.

For current me?

It’s ok to focus on getting this done. But then no excuses, buckling down to try to get this edit finished. I’ve got a good plan. I’ve got a good start. A good strategy. Good characters added. Good characters removed. (Appropriate maybe…they aren’t all …good…) But I don’t have words that aren’t “good” right now. So finish. Get the editing done. Get the last recorded. Get the changes recorded. 

Then sit down in December and January and hammer out Jenna’s story. Take the chisel and really work that draft into something worth sharing. 

And write a short or two in the meanwhile. 

No more excuses.

Art is important. 

So yes, I’m going to fail at NaNoWriMo, and it’s not great, but it’s ok. I’m learning something important. Hopefully I’ll actually take the lesson to heart this time. If not, future me, knock that shit off!

My Approach to NaNoWriMo

I’m going to talk a bit about my approach to Nanowrimo this year…

Nano!
Nano!

It may be TMI? Maybe? I’m trying to share. I was talking with someone recently about how much I love Mur Lafferty’s I Should Be Writing podcast. She’s so open and honest. (Or appears she is at least.) I like the ones where she just tells you how she’s feeling and what’s happening even more than the interviews. Like oh, she can do it, not every day is awesome, I can have a bad day and still come back and do ok. I can freak out and panic inside and that doesn’t make me a bad writer or bad whatever. I can keep going.

I’m nervous. I’m stressed. I’m panicked.

A problem

So my first problem is that I’ve been slacking on creative/fiction writing lately. I’ve been writing blog posts, I’ve been editing things, I’ve been critiquing, supporting, I’ve worked on some monstrous writing focused projects at work that have taken a lot of my creative and writing brain and by the time I get home I’m pretty burned out.

So I’ve been slacking on the fiction. I finished up a project nearish the start of October and haven’t bitten off a full new project since then. I’ve made notes on a couple of new projects that I want to work on post NaNo (yay more Smoke Jumpers stuff) but I didn’t start because I wanted to keep my focus on the NaNo project.

Strategy

Um…Just do it?

I can’t wake up any earlier because I’ve been getting up super early to go into work and get extra stuff done. But I’m hoping that lightens up a bit by the middle of this week, then I’ll just keep getting up early and spend that extra first hour working on the novel.

I already have (good) plans for the 1st, but I’m going to carve out at least one hour a night the rest of the week. It might not be enough, it might not be enough to even make it. But I think it should be a good start.

One hour means one hour. Not 15 minutes while doing this or that. It means 4 solid, focused blocks of 15 minutes of writing, which should be entirely doable. I’ll do 4 sprints a night.

Podcast?

I’m set and scheduled for all of November, so I just need to keep up the promotion and other things I do, but hopefully I can let the hunting new work/opportunities slack a little. (I do have some amazing authors with some wonderful stories coming up through the month!)

Project?

I’m doing Jenna’s first book. It is a full rewrite. I normally go into NaNo with a pretty solid idea and usually some planning, that often goes out the window. This time I have basically a really bad outline and an end. Which is what I consider this book to be. The book isn’t bad, it just doesn’t work well…maybe a little bad. Not good…I’m rewriting because I think it has a lot of potential, I just think I left a lot of that potential behind the first pass. I have the second book in the trilogy written and so I know where I want to point my character, and I want to follow a lot of the same path as the first book, but basically not at all…if that makes sense. So I feel both more prepared and less than I ever have.

When/If I Fail

It’s ok.

It’s ok.

It really is ok.

I still have my day job. I still have my home. I still have the wonderful podcast. I still can keep writing it AFTER December 1st.

I know for some people it helps to have hard deadlines and impending doom to finish projects. But I’m already freaking out about failing something I haven’t started yet and have a good track record of finishing despite obstacles and stresses larger than what I anticipate this year.

I know that accepting the consequences of failure make me more likely to succeed.

Why NaNoWriMo?

I’ve been thinking more about NaNo lately and if it is still right for me? I like having a month dedicated/set aside for/focused on novels. Partly because while I usually do a lot of writing I am more often writing shorter pieces, flash, short and novella length stuff for different projects. I like those a lot. But I also like the novels. Having some space carved out for writing those novels is really helpful.

Having the NaNoWriMo community can be helpful. (It is part of why I wanted to try out Scribophile, so see if that could work, I’m still testing that.) A good place to go for support or questions. A good place to go and help someone and feel better because I’ve helped and supported someone else and so yes I can do this. (Yes, knowing I can/am helpful to others makes me feel better about my own chances of success, brain weird.)

So I think that for this year at least NaNoWriMo is still for me because it gives me a chance/a reason to stop and focus on just one novel project.

Next year though I think I’ll shift and maybe give myself a cheat of the weekend before to help prep even if some prep means some writing. I’m too much of a stickler for the rules for my own good sometimes.

If you stuck through all of that, what does NaNo do for you? Problems? Writing? Anything? Can I help you somehow to feel better about my chances of success? Did I mention my brain is weird?

Good luck!

Death and Weddings

I’ve been plotting out a Smoke Jumper novella. I’ve been wanting to write a mystery for a while and the idea came to me for a murder set at a destination wedding. So I’ve been researching death and weddings. It’s been…weird.

First the wedding!

I’ve been making a Pinterest board. Just like other Pinterest board makers. Except my thought when I look at something is, “Would this make a good clue?” “Would this make a good red herring?” “How will this factor into the death?” “I wonder which bridesmaid’s dress color will look good with blood?” “What picturesque location would be best to find a dead body?”

Basically, it’ll be a sort of rustic farm wedding, with a dead body and a shape shifter. That’s how most weddings are right?

rustic wedding
Matt MacGillivray

Death and corpses

I’ve seen this making rounds but The Human Body After Death is extremely helpful.

I’m having a poisons problem. Wolfsbane seems WAY to obvious considering that my shifter will be a wolf.

Here’s a list of 10 poisons used to kill people (beware audio – sorry!) The real problem for me is where and what I’d like to use. Poison ivy just won’t cut it. I’m not sure if this poison will be the actual weapon, or a red herring, but I know I need something that is plant based, ideally found in North America, super ideally found in the Rocky Mountains. Hm.

Mysteries

15 Tips from Elizabeth Craig

25 Things You Need to Know from Susan Spann

Really old post but had some good stuff about plotting clues which I’ve been having trouble with.

This (long!) post has some clue examples which is also helpful. Beware it isn’t even for writers, it is for creating one of those mystery dinner things I think. But I really liked the clues section.

 

 

Audiobooks and Audible

A brief update about audiobooks and Audible.

I narrated a book a few months ago and it is finally out on Audible. So you can listen to me read a very geeky urban fantasy with wolves and where I say the word bitch a bunch.

Howling Dead by M. H. Bonham

Howing Dead
Howling Dead by M. H. Bonham

Which earrings look best with fur? Kira Walker is a geek and UNIX systems administrator who has a bad hair day at least once a month. But when a wolf attacks Kira and her BFF in downtown Denver around the full moon, she’s devastated. Now, like it or not, Kira is unemployed, and the head of Denver’s werewolf pack is getting a little too friendly for her tastes. And, oddly, she keeps finding herself naked in front of road workers. Caught in this new world, Kira discovers there are sinister forces at work. Rogue werewolves have declared war against humans, and when Kira’s other BFF is kidnapped, it gets Kira snarling mad. Can she solve the riddle of the Enchanted Forest before the rogue werewolves kill again? Fashion-challenged Kira will learn that werewolves have a strong bite.

Want to know more about using Audible? I came across a great Guide to Audible from Sajan Parikh.

And if you want to try Audible for yourself you can sign up for any of the three giveaways to get a chance to win a free audiobook. (Which you could use to listen to me narrate Howling Dead.)

How to Listen to Podcasts

Don’t know how to listen to podcasts? I’m here to help!

Just make it easy!

iPhone
Android

What are podcasts?

Basically a radio program on the computer. Or like going to the library and picking a series, and then the rest of them are already checked out when are ready for the next one.

If you can think of it, if it is your hobby, something you like, there is a podcast about it. It is the internet, it exists.

Podcasts can be regular, weekly, monthly, daily, or irregular sort of whenever the podcaster puts them out. You can have video podcasts. Most podcasts are audio. They can also range from just a few minutes up to hours and hours.

So how do I listen?

Do you have a smart phone? If you do get an app. For iPhones or iPads I cannot recommend Overcast highly enough. Once you’ve downloaded it, tap the plus in the upper right corner, then find a podcast.

Go ahead and try with my podcast (you knew this was going to come up!) Just type 600 Second Saga into the search directory.

You can add a single episode, or subscribe so every time a new episode comes out it will download right to your phone.

I don’t have an iPhone!

Stitcher is a fine cross platform tool. (Meaning you can use it on your Android phone, or desktop, probably not Blackberry, Windows phone apparently not. Windows phone users might be on your own. I spent over an hour trying to help a friend with this, it was a challenge.)

If you are on Android and use one of the other tools this link (Android) should make it work for you. You can also find me in the Google Play app.

No smartphone

You can listen on the page of the podcast. On the side of the page you’ll see a player, click and listen. You can also subscribe on YouTube if you are a YouTube fan.

600 Second Saga each episode has a link to play right in the browser at the bottom of each post. You can also listen right from my Facebook page.

For other podcasts, most of them will have the ability to listen directly from their webpage as well.

And Overcast has a website too. (I swear this isn’t an ad for Overcast, it is just the best tool I’ve found.)

I did user test these steps with a couple smart but not tech savvy people in my life, but if this still confuses you please comment and I’ll be happy to update it or help you.

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Book Recommendations

Books and Holidays and Gifts and Stuff

It is winter gift season, post NaNo reading season, cold snuggle up with a warm bowl of soup and a wonderful sweater season, and year end wrap up season. I am far from the first person to say this of course, but I am prompted now to say my own thoughts and recommendations.

There are really good lists out there already full of great book/art/music/etc recommendations. Try Whatever’s annual lists of traditional books, non-traditional books, art, and charities. Try terribleminds recommend a book list.

My Book Recommendations

I Am Princess X

by Cherie Priest. This is fun, fast, engaging and beautiful. It is a great book for anyone who doesn’t like to read. Lots of really beautiful comics interwoven with the book. It is a mystery that reaches the heart of its main character, a 16 year old girl who is lonely and friendless. She’s an active hero, reaching into the world and grasping and unweaving the mystery of her best friend’s death. Get this for the teenager or adult in your life who is like pff books. Tell them it’s a comic (it is!) and read it with them.

Written in Red

by Anne Bishop. I actually recommend all of them. This is an urban fantasy that creates an incredibly rich and complex world. This is the world that when I think about books I’ve read recently always comes to mind. Always led by Meg who is a great protagonist. She tries so damn hard. She fails so damn often. And she still gets up and tries again. The world though is really what sets this book apart. It isn’t at all our world but with magic. It is stripping the Earth back to the beginning¬† of life and starting magic, then building up from there. Political balance (which has a disturbingly familiar feel), technology, populations, everything is impacted, and well thought out. I highly recommend this series.

Cinder

by Marissa Meyer. Again, I recommend the entire series. This YA Sci-Fi series leans heavily on but still manages to really transport and reimagine them. I’m a secret, not so secret, huge Cinderella fan (hell I even watch when Disney makes a new version every 3 or 4 years) and this is a really good retelling. It holds all the good bits and tosses plenty of the not so important ones. There are also some really fantastic but subtle nods to the fairy tales throughout the books. The final book in the series just came out in November so I’m hoping to get my hands on it soon.

Shards of Honour

by Lois McMaster Bujold. Anything. The odd thing about this series was I started way, WAY out of place. Liked the writing, liked the characters, decided to pick something else up. Looked at the first book, saw it was written when I was very little, grimaced. I’ve found that lots of books that were written quite a long time ago are just books that aren’t for me. But I decided to try. Nothing about this book feels absurdly out of date. It doesn’t feel heavy with language that is laughable, it doesn’t make me constantly roll my eyes out of my skull with frustration. It feels current and engaging. It has characters that really matter, these books float through my brain on the incredible strength of the characters.

These are some I’d recommend. I’m burning through books at a good clip right now as a break for my brain from writing. I’m also just cracking into the novels I agreed to be a beta reader for as well which is exciting.

Go forth and find new books to add to your To Read lists! Have soup! Ski if you have snow! Wear a lovely, soft sweater!

I also really like All Thing Urban Fantasy when I’m looking for a new series, good reviews, thoughtful and considered. Easy to figure out when it isn’t for the reviewer but might be for me, or vice versa.

Nano Update – Done

Done

I’m done. I wash my hands of it. I actually finished on the 23rd with the bulk of the book. I went through and put in notes where I need to fix things. I pulled the first book into the Scrivener along side it so that I can make sure I’ve got good continuity between the two. This seems like what it was made for. I can have open my information about her magnetic bracelet (more like this – though more do it yourself and not so much like this) so I make sure I’m getting the look right and the list o-stuff she currently is carrying with her on it stays consistent.

I also went through and highlighted the scenes from the first book that I know will need a significant rework (in addition to the 2-3 that just need to be written) which is only 3 of them. So overall not as bad as I’d feared. One will need to be basically redone completely but the other 2 have a lot of salvageable stuff.

Next steps for Jenna

I’m setting her aside. This is, hopefully, 1 and 2 in a trilogy. I have a really long way to go on getting them edited up and polished and ready. But I’m hoping to really dive into that in January. I figure a month off to work on other things is a good break.

I fully expect editing book one to be painful. But it won’t be as bad as my last, for so many reasons. And I think book 2 shouldn’t be too bad. I’m looking forward to having them ready to go.

Next project

Shorts. More shorts. They are fun and fast and I think they are helping me get better at writing, plotting, planning. All good things. I’ve got two in the novelette range (for me I am aiming for 10-12K) that need polish and can be put on a shelf for something I’m hoping to put together.

The next one I’m going to work on is a shake out my brain and do something very different short. Based on a bunch of rejected suggestions from a friend who gave really bad ideas this NaNo. Bad ideas lead to good ones.

No Elvis though. It doesn’t fit my universe.

NaNo Update 2

I’ve got less than 7000 to go to get to the shiny Nano 50K goal. Less than 10K to get to the end of the first draft. What does that mean?

If I Finish Early

I’m going to go back and write the Missing Chapters. I am really good about backing things up. I actually have four copies of the files for the first book in this series. None of them have the Missing Chapters. I’m starting to wonder if I wrote them.

I seem to remember that I wrote the final chapters and kind of hated them. I came back later and rewrote them. I think at some point I deleted them and then never saved the new ones. I will look again to see if there is some magical secret storage place (possibly dropbox, I’ve already checked in the usual suspects, but also back things up to dropbox as a if fire happens tool). Mostly though? I think I have to go and dig my damn toes in and write them. AGAIN.

After NaNo?

I’m setting the book/s aside for December. I need space between the writing and the edit. I figure I can work on something(s) else for a month and then come back to the first book and the new nano book and try to burn through editing them both. I’ve already got a good list of edit notes for them.

Unfortunately, the first book is going to require a good bit of surgery, cutting out one entire plotline and adding in a brand new one. It will make it much stronger, but a lot of work.

More Shorts!

My plan for December is to write at least one short, and polish up two of them. I’ve got two for the series I’m working on that both need editing.

I also have the short for the Anthology I’ve been working on with Stefan Budansew. Mine is ready to go on that.

And name things.

Anything. I’m horrible with names. I don’t have any good names for my current works in progress. They are all named for the series or main character with a number. Jenna 1, Jenna 2. These are not good names. I want to come up with one good damn name in December.