Guest Post: Shelving My Emotions

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Today, I’m guest posting at All the Way YA about the emotional and professional lead up to my decision to shelve my first novel. Here’s a snippet of the post.

The Order of the Key was my dream novel, the book of my heart. I invented the idea for it when I was fifteen years old and I never expected to be shelving it, unpublished, twenty years later.

Jeez. Twenty years later. I don’t think I ever thought of it in those terms.

To be fair, I haven’t been working on it this entire time, and the book I’m stuffing in the musty shelf of my mind is definitely not the book I started with. The version I’d created at fifteen contained a completely unlikeable, hormonal, emotional (possibly based on myself) super-cool highly powerful sorceress teen, and she hunted vampires as she romanced her way through a team of stalwart heroes. Hey, cut me some slack. It was the age of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and it showed. The current, much cooler, much more mature version involves a fun and likeable geek who blunders her way through a semi-corrupt organization that fights interdimensional monsters and manages to find herself leading the rebellion to overthrow the corrupt portion of it.

When I say it has grown by leaps and bounds, I’m not just talking about its intriguing premise. The writing of the original novel was horrid. But it was the first thing I’d ever finished. I was proud of it.

To read the rest of the post, check it out on All the Way YA.

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Editing Journal: Wave 1 #p2p16 Edits

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The tweet announcing my #p2p16 win! YAY!

The below is a collection of my most important thoughts through the first wave of edits I received for #p2p16, or Pitch to Publication 2016. This is just the first set of edits, so we’ll see what’s to come, but so far, the general view of this process is a very excited two thumbs up. Read below to take the journey with me.

Friday, November 4, 2016:

Today, my edits came in from Kaitlyn. I read her reader’s guide, had a momentary panic, paced around my desk for a second, sat down and typed out an email with some legitimate questions and thoughts. She wrote back super fast with helpful and insightful commentary. Yes, there are big changes that need to be made, but nothing that hits the core of my story and nothing that compromises me artistically, so I’m much happier already than with my previous editing experience. Plus, Kaitlyn is so encouraging and excited about my project, it’s hard to feel anything but excited, too. Also, checking out her individual opinions throughout the document, rather than the overview, made it much clearer how I could go about instituting some of the changes. I was still afraid about the word count getting higher, as it’s already at the limit of where the book could be…until I worked on the first chapter and it came in a couple hundred words shorter, after I added some voice and a bit of extra geeky flavoring. So, that word count situation is feeling much better. I even decided to alter a scene she didn’t ask me to, because I felt it clearly gave her the wrong opinion of a character, and that meant I needed to rework it. Something I was communicating went wrong. In the end, the most important lesson I learned is that, though I have plans for a series, I need to focus on what benefits this book, and then worry about Books 2-6 when I get there. Yes, I can plan, but if there’s something in Book 1 that takes away from it, I have to pull it and figure out how to fix that mess with Book 2. I can alter my canon if nobody else knows it yet. The rest is up to my creativity. I’ve often preached not getting too attached to your outline, and staying flexible, and I’ve been doing the opposite. That changes now. I need to make this book the best it can be. I can’t do that with a closed mind.

Kaitlyn has given me until November 18th to return my revised manuscript to her so she can start another pass. That’s going to take some pedal-to-the-metal speed. My son is going to miss me for the next two weeks. 😛

Saturday, November 5, 2016: 

Today involved a lot of weirdo moments. I realized quite a few things. For one, I realized that half looks like it’s spelled wrong if you look at it too long. I also determined that my left knee is shitty, and I messed up my already post-surgical mess of a bionic back (scoliosis – had a double rod spinal procedure at 15. Hooks and rods and steel, oh my!) with just a few hours of editing at home. This has taught me that I need a more ergonomic typing situation than sitting on my couch and balancing my laptop on a pillow. I probably should have already realized this. What is wrong with me? Also realized? My computer screen needs a cleaning. I just mistook a smudge for an extra period and kept trying to erase it.

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WTAF???

I also faced the very random occurrence of the edit document randomly switching to French several times while I was working! Thank you to this site for saving my life.

I worked through Chapters 2 and 3 and part of 4. Only cut about 30 words from Chapter 2, but I cut about 400 words in 3. This is good, because I have a few things to add, and had no room to add them.

Another thing I’ve noticed: Once you get a note that makes you rework a line, it makes you rethink all the unnecessary words in that entire paragraph. A lot of the cutting I’ve done have just been about me tightening things because I’ve zeroed in on a paragraph.

Well folks, my mother has arrived. She needs help with some computer stuff she needs done, as she doesn’t have one. So, off I go. I’ll write in my journal again tomorrow.

Sunday, November 6, 2016: 

Woke up with a migraine and some serious allergy bullshit this morning, so this should be fun. My head hurts, my nose is stuffy, my throat hurts, my aforementioned knee and back are killing me, and I feel like a slug. On to editing!

I got to invent a couple of brand new scenes for the purpose of altering a certain narrative thread that wasn’t working. That was fun. I managed to get through Chapters 4-6 in this one day. And cut a few hundred words. I’ve gotten through the first 100 pages. YAY!

Monday, November 7, 2016: 

I’m not working at my work desk because it’s a slow day. Nope. Not at all. For Chapter 7, I had to rewrite almost the entire chapter due to a change in the plot point. Chapter 8 is complete as well. Between the two of them, I have cut three whole pages. We’re getting somewhere! I discussed some of what I was working on with Kaitlyn and she was, again, awesome and gave me great feedback and helped me to make sure I was on the right track. I may have to hand her every book I write forever. Seriously.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016: 

Things were going relatively well until I got home and proceeded to watch election results. Then, there was no working.

Wednesday/Thursday, November 9-10, 2016:
Yeah, I tried to work, but nothing got done. Without going into politics too far, I mourned. I cried. My artistry got squashed a bit. It took a lot to recover.
Friday, November 11, 2016:
Today is a very good day. Not only is it a day of honor and respect pledged to our veterans, but it also happens to be my best friend’s birthday, and spending time with her always manages to rejuvenate me. I struggled through my day, but managed to get through a couple of chapters. Then, I got to participate in a very successful surprise party for this awesome, inspirational person (I’m not being hyperbolic. The lady is a hero. She saves lives for a living). I feel ready to attack tomorrow.

Saturday, November 12, 2016:

Woke up with a migraine again! Have I mentioned that I have three cats and they are all over eight years old and I just recently discovered I’m allergic to cats. Meaning . . . that’s not going anywhere because my cats aren’t.
I did finally pull myself together by around 1 PM and continued working through the night. Then I shocked myself by making it through five chapters! I even shot a question off to Kaitlyn, who quickly answered and told me my suggestion on a fix for an issue was on point. So I ran with it. And got pretty far.

Sunday, November 13, 2016:
And that’s it! With seven chapters to go, I managed to finish just in time to watch The Walking Dead. I’m kinda shocked. She gave me until the 18th! It just went so smoothly. Once I decided what I wanted to do to help cover the edits she requested, it was easy sailing and I felt so much better and more confident about the story. Plus, I got my enormous word count under 100,000 words! That made me happy, because it helped open up my options a little more, in case I don’t land an agent in the agent round. Either way, I’m a happy chica. Time to crash and await more edits from my editing partner.

If you’re looking to hire an editor, I highly recommend Kaitlyn. Check out her website at http://www.kjohnsonfreelance.com/ or email her at k.johnson.freelance@gmail.com.

 

Surviving Social Media Series Part 2: Stereotypes and Fact-Checking

Welcome to Part 2 of my Surviving Social Media Series. You can read Part 1 here.

Also, before I dive into Part 2, I wanted to announce that I was interviewed by Libby Heily last week, and it’s up on her blog, so please check it out! It will give you a little insight into my book and about working with Fantasy Works Publishing. Please pop on by!

And now, without further ado…


Did you know that people think they know a lot about you from your favorite social media account? There are actually plenty of people out there who firmly believe they know you based just on that. I must give them a hell of a time predicting with my collection of social media.

If you use Facebook, you’re a sheep, one of the crowd. I mean, come on. Great-Grandmothers use Facebook.

If you use Twitter, you’re a rabid fan, looking for contact with celebrities. You probably only got on there to talk to your favorite actor and you probably have never received a reply to any of the thousand tweets you’ve tweeted @him.

If you use Instagram, you are either self-involved and proving it with a countless number of selfies, or you are lying about your life and are proving it with well-lit photos of your surroundings looking perfect. Just out of frame of your perfect healthy meal is the tremendous bag of Oreos.

If you are on Pinterest you are a stay at home Mom or a perfectionist. After all, who else makes pretty DIY crafts like that?

If you are on Tumblr, you are probably a social justice warrior! And a hipster! You silly person, you. You couldn’t possibly have a decent opinion on real things, you delusional equality-believing artsy dummy! (written as an avid Tumblr poster since 2010).

So, how do you feel about that? Does any of that fit you?

Probably not. And there’s a reason for that.

Stereotypes of anything are bullshit.

The truth is that many different people post many different things on social media. The things we complain about are everywhere. But for every annoying post we run into, there is the ability to get news spread faster, the self-esteem boosting posts, people sharing love for their friends, the ability to find homes for animals, and just an increased awareness due to the spread of social media.

So we have an increased awareness of important news topics. And we also have an increased awareness of every. Single. Thing. That one poster ate in a given day. It comes with the territory and we’ll discuss that part further in a later edition of this series.

But for now, let’s talk about that glorious spread of information. When it is good, it is very very good, but when it is bad, it is HORRID.

6beThough this meme is obviously a joke, it is a satire about the way people post incorrect memes all the time. Nobody in social media fact-checks. When some new bit of dubious information arises, it spreads like a damn plague before anybody realizes it could potentially be false.

This is one of the major problems about the spread of information in the age of social media. We repost, we share, we retweet and reblog and pin, and we often don’t know the truth of the news we are sharing. We often don’t know what agenda the initial disseminator of the information has. We don’t pay attention. As Captain Smek from Home said of the internet, “The Internet does not lie.”

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Sure, it doesn’t. The internet is a connected web of computers. It doesn’t lie. But the people who are putting information out to be shared through the web of computers? They lie. They lie plenty.

So remember, folks, if it’s on a website that is solely about your ideological bend, whatever that may be, you might want to double check those facts. And if you think you know something about a person based on what kind of social media they use, you might not want to base your stock portfolio on that great predictive mind of yours.

I’m sure you’ve all run into people like the ones I mentioned above. Feel free to share your tales of woe in the comments. And stay tuned for next week, when we discuss a need for approval and social blackmail.

 

2015 Year in Review, Dancing into 2016

Hi all!

So I know I’ve been kind of absent this month, and mostly that was just me being the usual speed-of-light blur that I’m known for. Post NaNoWriMo, I had a ton of work to make up for in daily life, so I ran through that and have just now come down from the big spin. But, now that Christmas is done (Happy Holidays!), my 33rd birthday is here (Happy Birthday to me!) and 2016 is on the horizon (Happy New Year!), I always like to take a minute and look at how much things have changed in a year.

Highlights of 2015

  • IMG_2318I signed a contract for my series! So, things may be a bit delayed from my original August release, but that’s because I switched publishing companies in the middle of the process. It was a difficult but necessary decision to make, and while it set things back a little, The Order of the Key is still going strong and will be on bookshelves and hopefully chilling in your e-reader in 2016. So, stick with me. 2016 is going to be a banner year! I am also over halfway through writing Book 2, so things for the Keys and Guardians series are going well and moving right along.
  • Speaking of which, if we’re going with firsts, this is the first time I’ve ever edited a manuscript for a publisher, and it has been insane. Bang your head into the wall, pull your hair out of your head, angst-ridden crazy, but we’re about halfway through the muck, and the product has been incredible. I’m in love with what we’ve done so far, and damn…my editor is right when she’s right, you know?
  • lastcover1My husband, Ismael, signed his book series! Fans of the blog know just how invested I am in my husband’s work (we work as a team, are each other’s first editors, and brainstorm out most of our work together). Obviously, he is more excited than I am, but I am still over the moon! Soulless, Book 1 of the Soul Broker series, is in final edits and due out early in 2016. Life just got very different for both of us, as I’m sure you know.

 

  • Logan is kicking butt at First Grade and has decided he wants to be a writer too. We’re not expecting anything, but he’s pretty angry he can’t publish a book now, because Mommy and Daddy are, so why not? One day, kid. Or maybe not. You decide.
  • Once we both got picked up for series with Fantasy Works Publishing, I also took a job with them, and I’ve been having a grand time with my newfound duties. I’ve been working in acquisitions, as a content editor, and I’m about to strike out in a new branch – I will be running the soon-to-open audiobook branch of the company. So keep an eye open for that. You can get an idea of all of the wonderful things FWP has to offer at http://www.fantasyworkspublishing.com
  • Lastcover I mentioned my content editing above, and I’d like to introduce you to the book I’ve been editing. If you like horror and dark fantasy, you will love following the twists and turns of Gage Greenwood’s first novel, In the Eyes, In the Shadows. We’ve been having a great time working on his novel, he is extremely talented, and a breeze to work with. I know you all will fall in love with his book just like I did, so follow him for news on its release. You’ll be seeing it in 2016 as well.

What’s New in 2016

  • Aside from all the release dates and pending projects? Well, I’m still writing Book 2 of the Keys and Guardians series, The Lost Key, and I’m also going to try to shop out my last remaining short story, One Headlight. It’s been a busy year, and I let that one fall by the wayside. Either way, with book signings and marketing on the horizon, I have a good feeling that 2016 will have a crazier and much longer list of highlights than this year.

Alright guys, that’s what’s up with me! How is everything with you? Post below so I can get a look at what everyone has been up to and what is to come!

Four Common Misconceptions About NaNoWriMo

NaNo-2015-Participant-Badge-Large-Square.jpgHey all! I’ve been a little absent from blog posts this month, and here’s why! I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo, where I am working on Book 2 of the Keys and Guardians series, The Lost Key! To learn more about NaNo, keep reading. I’ll be back to a more regular posting schedule in December. 

As I am writing this blog, it is November 23rd and I have written 35,645 words toward my NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words in a month. In case you don’t know, National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo is an event in which every November, people try their damnedest to write a novel in 30 days. Every year, over 300,000 participants sign up. It’s not easy, but it is possible. At my current word count, I am just a little behind, but still keeping a good pace to finish the 50,000 in time. But many people don’t like the idea of NaNoWriMo. There are reasons for and against, but today I’m here to discuss what I consider to be misconceptions about the event.

The rush for a word count wins out over creatively good books. Here’s the thing. A ton of the people who join up for Nano have never written a book before in their lives, and they are certainly not writers. For them, this is a fun mission, a chance to try something they’ve never tried before. Maybe some of these people will find out they’re writers. Maybe some of them will write one sentence over and over again, and it will be about cheese. This won’t harm anyone, unless Madame Gouda decides to publish her magnum opus on the wondrous dairy product.

For writers, however, Nano is capable of teaching us another lesson. How to create a habit. It won’t make us any more or less creative. If we’re practicing writers, the hope is that we already have that tool, and if we don’t there may be no saving us. What it does teach, instead, is to write a certain amount every day, consistently. It teaches to shut down the voice in our heads that tells us to stop. We can’t slow down because something in the back of our minds says this idea might be stupid. We have to push through it because we have a word count. We’ll fix it later. And it teaches us to think outside of the box to make our plot, even the less well thought out parts, work.

NaNoWriMo creates terrible books. Maybe. NaNoWriMo probably creates terrible first drafts for some. But first drafts are not and never have been books. And if you think your first draft is publishable…I probably don’t want to read it. The Order of the Key is coming out in early 2016. I don’t even know how many drafts I did of The Order of the Key. I literally lost count. I know it’s more than five. More than five. And that was before my editor even got it. So, yes, if you’re handing in your first draft, it’s probably terrible…but you don’t get a seventh draft unless you’ve gotten a first draft down. Nano is good for that.

50,000 words is barely a book, so you don’t write a novel in a month. Well, for one thing, 50,000 words can make one hell of a first draft. Last year, one of my best friends, Louis Santiago, wrote an amazing novel in 50,000 words. Did it need development and a little expansion? Sure. But it was a damn good start. But most people will take a little more than 50,000 words to write a full novel.

It may take you another month to finish the other 30,000 words that might be in your novel. It might take you another year or two of editing. That’s okay. The point is to motivate you to create, not to motivate you to create a document ready to be sent to the printer for publication. You’ll get there. But nobody should expect it to be this month.

Nobody is buying as many books as are made regularly, so there’s no place for your stupid book idea. I read this article back in 2010 when it was published. It is still circulating, and it still pisses me off. This is a stupid article. Why? Because it determines that there is a finite amount of creativity allowed in the world, and if you discover some long hidden talent, then you’re wasting the space of so-called REAL artists who already knew about their talent. You’re knocking true writers off the bookshelves.

WRONG. NO WAY. There will always be plenty of space out there for you and other people to write books. Your book will be unique. And even if it’s not – even if you’re book is literally Twilight with witches and mermaids instead of vampires and werewolves, what difference does it make?Creation can be for others to observe, or it can be for the creator. We are allowed to tap into our creativity in whatever way we choose.

So, if you want to write a novel during NaNoWriMo, write one. If you don’t, don’t. But definitely don’t let yourself become swayed by these misconceptions. Now…maybe I should go back to writing my novel. Until next time!

 

On Setting and The Order of the Key

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When plotting out a book idea, setting becomes an essential tool. There are a couple of things you need to consider when you’re deciding where to set a novel. For one, you need a general space and time. For my novel, The Order of the Key, it’s present day New York. But just like a movie has various sets and location shoots that need to be considered in advance, setting goes much deeper than a time and general locale.

When I decided on a setting, I chose utility.

About 90% of The Order of the Key takes place at the Franklin Estate and its surrounding land somewhere near Buffalo, NY. The house, surrounded by acres of forest, is bound by wards so nothing can get in–or out. If that sounds claustrophobic, it’s supposed to. Jacklyn refers to the Estate and its surrounding forest as “Capture disguised as freedom.”

When Jacklyn and her siblings arrive there, they are in awe of the size and the beauty of the decor in a house that can board their entire family and then some. But, then, they believe they’re coming for temporary training. They don’t realize they’re moving there.

The Estate isn’t supposed to be a possession of The Order, but a possession that the extremely rich Franklins have allowed The Order to utilize. Therefore, it needed to fit Lavinia Franklin’s personality, and also be large enough to house the entire Order.

Jacklyn and Lavinia are mirror images of each other. Jacklyn has read one too many comic books and she is very much about the image of a hero–how she should behave based on what she knows. Lavinia doesn’t see herself as the villain, but she does see herself as power-driven. She understands that she’s the Amanda Woodward (for those younger readers, Melrose Place’s no-nonsense, antagonistic business woman who always gets what she wants) of the Estate and yes, that reference is a little out of date, but Lavinia is not a teenager. Lavinia maintains the Estate according to an image of Old World riches, because it helps perpetuate that image of her being a hard-working, elegant woman, able to make the tough choices. But what she really is, and her setting also dictates this, is that of a modern day robber baron.

The Estate needed to be opulent, it needed to be large, and the space around that was necessary mostly because it would ease the claustrophobic vibe of them being cooped up in a house and watched all the time. It was necessary that the feeling exist, especially in certain scenes, but an entire book like that would be tough to live with, so I granted them the surrounding outdoor area for more open space.

However, I am happy that future books get the gang out of the house a lot more. Not gonna tell you how though. Not yet, anyway.

Fancasting The Order of the Key

In August, I participated in an online event for Kyra Dune’s release of her latest YA Fantasy novel, Elfblood. As those events go, I played a game with attendees. For this specific game, I decided I would throw out some character description and let other people cast the characters for my upcoming novel, The Order of the Key. I promised to post the best results here, so here we are (Also, read to the end for a quick publishing update)!

Jacklyn Madison: Jacklyn is 18 years old with dark curly hair, hazel eyes, and an athletic build. She’s kind and loving, but she’s got a sarcastic streak, quite a bit of pride, and a big mouth that always seems to get her into trouble. She starts out a little naive but she becomes stronger the more she learns in her time at the Estate. She’s tough, a fighter, but gentle…even killing monsters leaves her feeling guilty.

The submissions for Jacklyn, some of them seemed far too innocent. Some of them seemed far too sexual. To me, the best entries skated the middle of the road between sweet and sexy. 

If you wanted known actresses, you could go with one of these two.

Belinda Clemons suggested Pretty Little Liars star, Lucy Hale. I could totally see this!

Belinda Clemons

Another good one? Lori White Lazzara suggested ex-Disney star and musician Demi Lovato.

Lori White Lazzara 4

If we’re looking at a relative unknown, Lori White Lazzara came up with another option.

Lori White Lazzara 3

I HAVE NO IDEA WHO SHE IS! Her picture is all over the place on hair styling websites and she’s gorgeous, but I don’t know who she is. So…if anyone does, let me know. 🙂

Kyp Franklin: Kyp was born a leader. He’s incredibly intelligent and driven, but he’s emotionally closed, somewhat hard to read. Known for his complex relationship with the truth, Kyp has a one-track mind. He has every intention of turning the current mission of The Order upside-down. Dark-haired, dark-eyed, brooding and attractive, Kyp would probably be the last person in the world to even consider his own appearance…unless he can use it to manipulate his way into a better position to meet his goals.

MANY gorgeous guys were submitted for Kyp, but all of them…while fun to look at…scanned a little too old for Kyp, and…I hesitate to say this, a little too beefcake.

Personally, I’ve never had a casting idea for Jacks. But I have had one for Kyp. Kevin Zegers of The Mortal Instruments would be my choice…although the eyes are wrong. The rest, however, are so perfect for Kyp, I almost made his eyes blue. No, not really.

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I’ve written about this before. I had no idea who this guy was when I dreamed Kyp up, but I saw him and was blown away by how close he was to my mental image of him.

Lavinia Franklin: Lavinia is refined and cold. She has a temper, but is far more the type to cut you with her words through gritted teeth, or wait until later, so she can destroy you when nobody is watching. Her brutal side is mostly hidden unless she feels she requires a show of strength. Devious and manipulative, Lavinia always has a plan. With long brown hair and a tall and slender figure, Liv is just as beautiful as she is deadly.

For this one, Angela Walker Cruz was the closest to my idea of Lavinia. Actress Jo Champa has the right look in many images of her.

Angela Walker Cruz

My own personal casting choice for Lavinia, would be Hemlock Grove‘s Famke Janssen.

Her entire face screams, “Don’t screw with me.”

There are plenty of other characters, but if I did all of them, it would take quite awhile. I think that once the book is released, I will revisit the idea again, and ask for some feedback from readers about who they would like to see.

For anybody wondering what’s up with the release, it has been delayed due to a few necessary edits and the fact that we are hard at work at an amazing cover that will do Jacklyn and her crew justice. Once things are set and the wheels are in motion, I will let you know all about it. Don’t forget about me. The Order of the Key is still well on the way. It will be in your hands soon, and now that I’ve found my forever publishing home, the next ones will be released much more smoothly.

Do you all have any casting possibilities for me? Please feel free to post them below!