Monday, April 21, 2014

Chaos Calling Cover!

Chaos Calling, the second book in my Foulweather Twins fantasy series, will be hitting the shelves in ten days or so! Yippee! This book has received great feedback from my editor and beta readers....who want the next book NOW. That's a great feeling!

And speaking of great -- check out this cover done by Kellie Dennis of Book Cover by Design!

Chaos Calling

Foulweather Twins Trilogy, Book 2

Suspicion and stubbornness have never served Sage so well…

There are moments when the panic swells in me as I realize afresh what I have done. To betray the immortal I was raised to serve… What was I thinking? But those are just moments. Every day I live with the consequences, and they’re worth it. If the only way I know to make the Lady suffer, to force her power to wilt, is to serve another like her, I will take it. Until I find a better way.

Sage Brighton made a choice six months ago. A choice that changed her whole world. Now she skulks in the shadows, hiding even more from her twin and the rest of the Queen family than she had before. Serving two immortals is stretching her beyond her limits. And then there’s her unwelcome attraction to Chaos, the immortal seeking to destroy her family, and her relationship with Peter. As Sage’s days and nights spiral out of control, can she figure out who to trust? A wrong move now could spell the end of everything she’s worked for. It could be the end of her.

If you want to see how this story begins, check out the first novel, Queen Witch! (You can read details and an excerpt on my "Fantasy Books" page.)
Kindle U.S.
Kindle U.K.

And watch for Chaos Calling in the next couple of weeks!

Monday, April 7, 2014

ROW80 Round Two Goals

It's a stunner that April has arrived and it's now time to dash into Spring like mad hares on the chase...  I'm not giving in utterly to this feeling, with other parts of life to attend to as well. My cup is overflowing in what feels like all areas of life at the moment. Last round I just completely disappeared. I was still writing, but I didn't feel like blogging. And I let myself take that break. We'll see how the Spring goes.

Instead of thinking how this abundance in life takes away from my time to pursue my writing goals (yes, that's my thought pattern. blech), I'm going to try to embrace it, and forgive myself when I don't produce words as fast as I'd like. The truth is, there are so many stories in this noggin that I don't think I'll ever be really happy with what I can accomplish in a day. Over time, those days build into something great, though -- and something only I can do. I have to relish that feeling of success instead of beating myself up when I'm not moving fast enough.

If you haven't seen Kait Nolan's post to start this round of A Round of Words in 80 Days, the writing challenge that knows you have a life, her message today is to Be Kind to Ourselves. It's an important message, and one I've come to grips with on my own in the past year. Burnout is a bitch, people. And self-doubt combined with lofty goals can result in depression over time, if you don't adjust your expectations and forgive yourself. Thank the Lord for all you're learning, for all you are doing. Take time to refill the well. And don't worry about sales. Don't worry.

I'll try to follow that advice this round.

And now maybe you think you'll see some minimized goals? I have a lot of stuff in the works. If I can let off some steam occasionally and come back focused, maybe you'll be seeing it soon. :)

ROW80 Round Two Goals:

1) Publish Chaos Calling, the second book in my Foulweather Twins Trilogy. This book will go to beta readers this week, and be published by early May. It came back from editing really fast, and my editor demands the next book. Ha! Not written. :) I'll get there later this year.

2) Write Sheild!!!!!!! This is the fifth and final book in my Children of the Sidhe romance series. I've written about 3k, and have a complete outline. Plus this couple is hot. So I'm currently trying to really get to know what drives them so this draft will be a smooth one. My goal is 5k a week, although there will be some adjustments around the publication of Chaos Calling (goal #1).

3) Play with friends. That might sound strange as a writing goal, but I need to get out more. One of my wonderful girlfriends has been encouraging me for months to join a book club that's made up of several other friends from the college era, and their friends. I'm going to do it. I need to see these people, and engage in real person speak. Having actual conversations is, after all, likely the root of good dialogue. Right? Heh.

So those are my goals. I'll be interested to see if others pick up Kait's theme. I think it's helpful. She's right that we aren't machines. And who wants to be?

Have a great Spring! And remember to be kind to yourself.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Queen Witch Upgrades

Queen Witch has a lovely new cover done by Kellie Dennis at Book Cover by Design. It's also now available in paperback!! Finally!!!

Kindle U.S.
Kindle U.K.

The second book in the trilogy is with my editor now, and should hit the e-shelves in May. I'll be doing a cover reveal for Chaos Calling soon!

Monday, March 17, 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour

My friend Lauralynn Elliott was kind enough to invite me to join her on this blog tour about writing process. Lauralynn was an inspiration and a huge help as I began my publishing journey in 2011, and we've been buddies ever since. Check out Lauralynn's post from last week, and I'll also link to the authors following me at the end of this post. Thanks for the invitation, Lauralynn! :)

What am I working on?
A lot of things! I'm so far from a monogamous writer, it's not even funny. (Really. Just try it. Not funny. lol) I get bored easily, and when you look at my fiction writing, that's obvious.
I'm currently editing the second book in my Foulweather Twins fantasy series. Also, in a couple of weeks I'll start writing the fifth novella in my Children of the Sidhe fantasy romance series. I'm also looking to publish a couple of short stories this year.
And I have a LONG list of projects behind these....enough to keep me busy for many years. Just the way I like it!

How does my work differ from others in its genre?
I don't think a lot about genre when I'm conceptualizing a story. I think more about how cool it would be to X Y Z, or to be X Y Z. This has made it difficult to pin a genre on my work. Or a targeted age group, for that matter. But I have figured out what draws me to writing fiction, and what I will always pursue:
I'm all about myth and magic. A while ago I went on a vision quest (not really), trying to understand the commonalities that tie my strange story worlds together into a somewhat cohesive personality. Myth and magic is what I emerged with, and I've found it really does sum up what I'm after as a writer. This is the stuff that is just pure FUN for me.
My Children of the Sidhe romance series is heavy on the fantasy worldbuilding (and the sex, some tell me. :)). My current fantasy series, Foulweather Twins, is set in the modern world, and features a stubborn and suspicious witch born to a reclusive family that serves a powerful, self-centered immortal.

Why do I write what I do?
Um...I can't help it? Seriously, start any conversation with me and a fictional twist is just a heartbeat away. I joke with friends that I turned on the spigot a couple of years ago with story ideas, and there's nothing that can turn it off again. Story worlds are it for me. I love fantasy. It makes me happy.
In the evenings, after my three and five year old kids are in bed, the thing I practically skip to do is pick up one of my books on mythology, natural magic, moon magic, herbology, superstition, world religion, world ritual, monsters, mythical creatures, secret societies....etc. And within a couple of pages I usually have a fun idea.
I dream about a time when I could actually turn an evening of ideas into a book in short order. And I'm working on getting good enough to do just that. It's sure to take me some more years, so stay tuned... :)

How does my writing process work?
For me, stories start from all kinds of places. I'll usually have some idea that eventually sparks a story long before I know what I'd actually write about. And at some point, I get bored with the current project dominating my time, and my attention turns to a back burner idea -- and it BLOOMS. (In other words, some of my best creative work happens when I'm avoiding other projects. Yeah, quite a kicker.)
Once I have an idea, I try to understand the characters. Either they've spoken to me already, or I need to tease them out of hiding. This stage can take YEARS for me. I began thinking of my Foulweather twins back in 2003....don't tell them I neglected them that long. No reason they should know.
I have issues with my ideas being very large. Things that could take me a million directions and ten years to write. Being that I have a rather incredible backlog of stories I'd love to write, understanding where I'm headed before I start writing has become key for me.
I plot ahead of time, but just as in my marriage, I'm not so tied to my plan that I let roadblocks actually stall me. I'd rather adapt than waste time (or angst).
Some days, it's a matter of chasing that next sentence. I do not believe in writer's block. Lay down that next sentence. And the next. And the next. Within a few minutes you'll hit at least one spurt of understanding where you're headed. No matter how fleeting, grasp those moments and run with them. But know that tomorrow you might not feel inspired. WRITE THE NEXT SENTENCE. AND THE NEXT. AND THE NEXT.
Other times, I believe I know exactly where I'm headed, and somehow my characters take me on a ride I didn't expect. This is often my brain doing things I could never plan, that work far better than any plan I've made in my life. Let the brain do its magic. Don't stick so stringently to your plan that you deny the magic. Your brain is amazing. Half of this game is learning to trust it, give thanks for it, and move the heck on to the next story.

Good luck, people! Let me know if I've been helpful in this post, of if you have questions about what I've said. What I'm doing, you can do, too. Practice, learn your craft, and tell your stories. Or, if you don't have the writing bug, go right ahead and consume mine, if myth and magic appeals to you, too.

And next week, link to these fine ladies to learn more about how they do what they do...

Stacey Wallace Benefiel is the author of the Zellie Wells trilogy, the Day of Sacrifice series, The Toilet Business – a collection of humorous essays, Found (Penny Black #1), CROSSING, and multiple short stories. She sometimes goes by S.W. Benefiel or Reina Stowe, but knows she’s not foolin’ anybody. Stacey lives in an orange house in Beaverton, OR with her  two young children who have old people names.
When she’s not writing or driving the kids around, Stacey is at CrossFit, lifting heavy things and cursing the inventor of the Burpee.

Brooke Jackson has been creating stories for nearly as long as she has been able to hold a pencil. These days, when seh's not at her day job, working miracles in the kitchen, or being the family carpenter and electrician, Brooke finds time to dream, plot and write. Marked by Glory is Brooke's first published novel, available on Amazon and everywhere eBook are sold. It's a riveting tale about the supernatural forces taht control our lives...and our hearts. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Mid-Week Update: Has It Been a MONTH?

Yep. It's been more than a month since I last posted here. Not sure why. I've definitely been busy with writing stuff -- specifically edits to my novel Chaos Calling, which will be released this spring. I'm done with my edits on paper. I think it's a good book. Ha! I don't believe I can actually tell with my own writing, though my books do seem to come together much more cleanly and smoothly than they did a couple of years ago. I guess we can all take some hope from that. :)

Life has been crazy. Work has been nuts, but I don't want to get into that. We're finally out of our three month intensive birthday/holiday season. Everything happens between November 4th and February 15th in this household. And with an extended family as large as ours, each holiday/birthday comes with two to four gatherings (more for Christmas). I kid you not. These folks make plenty of plans to keep us busy.

Also, my daughter turned five, and her father had long ago promised her a pet when she turned five. She's a sweet, calm girl, and she is ready for a pet, so I started doing my research on good first pets for young kids. I keep the pets in this family. Hubby will do what's needed of him, but he would rather leave the care taking mostly in the hands :) I won't argue, even though he was the one to tell her she could have a pet. Ahem. (Mostly because the man fixes my cars and mows my lawn, and I really like not having to worry about that stuff.)

Anyhoo, the pet we chose has been freaking people out. write strange fiction about nonexistent beings -- who, by the way, have sex with each other and humans (yes a complaint I've actually gotten from extended family, to which I say, if you hate it DON'T READ IT. Also, that's only one of my series. *sigh*) -- and now you own...RATS?!?

Well, they're wonderful! They also make it super hard to get good pictures. Here's one of our rats, Gizmo, with my three-year-old daughter.

His brothers are Victor and Tizzy. I'm sure I'll add pics of the other boys soon. We've been having a great time with them. Gizmo likes to touch noses with the dog. We've even been gaining construction experience as we build stuff so they can go on adventures....and yes, this is another part of what I've been doing with my time. :)

Moving forward, I will start incorporating my edits into the electronic version Chaos Calling in a couple of days. Once that's off to my editor, I'm eager to write Shield, the final book in my Children of the Sidhe fantasy romance series. I want to write the first draft in a six-week stretch. I know I can do it -- that's devoting my 5,000 a week word count to that project alone, and then it will be DONE! The entire SERIES! Well, not quite done. I'll still have edits, and formatting the series omnibus for print....but, oh, I am excited to finish up a series this year.

Best of luck this week, writers and other friends!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sunday Update: Finished Chaos Calling Yesterday

I can't believe those words, but they're true. In the middle of our family rush to put on a birthday party this weekend for the newly minted 5-year-old, my excellent, thoughtful husband sent me out in the world to seek my fortune…I mean to FINALLY FINISH THIS DAMN BOOK.


The last few scenes of a book should be just as easy to write as all the others, shouldn't they? Especially when you're me, because it's not like I leave the end to be finished each time. Nope. I'll just leave a blank space and red note at random junctures…basically when I get bored and want to move on faster through the story.

I basically sat on a story that was 80 percent complete since August, and hardly picked it up again until January. ARGH.

I will do better in 2014. I want the third book in this trilogy finished by the end of the year, on top of writing and publishing the final installment of my Children of the Sidhe fantasy romance series. I also have a bunch of shorts started and will start publishing those this spring/summer as I knock them off. Super fun, myth and magic based short stories -- see, my fall didn't go entirely to waste!

My word count goal was 5,000 for the week, but I wrote just 4,100. I also did a little touch-up rewriting, and that didn't count as new words.

This week I'll print and start a paper edit of the novel I finished yesterday. I want that book in the hands of my darling editor by President's Day. So probably an April release. :)

If you struggle with finding the fun in your writing, or if you're big on adding heaps of emotional pressure and such to the creative process, check out the blog of Dean Wesley Smith for some inspiration. Today's post on having fun writing is sure to give you a different way to look at your book baby. I'm a daily visitor at Dean's blog…when I found him it felt like validation for a lot of what I was feeling about the writing and publishing process. I've learned a ton from him. He's wonderful. Check him out. (He also happens to live in my home state, so it's fun to share weather. :))

Have a great week everyone!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Mid-Week Update: Good Week So Far

When I last checked in I was down to two scenes left to write (or rewrite) in Chaos Calling.

My current goals are:
-Get up at 5 three days a week, walk the dog and write before the kids get up.
-Write 5,000 words of new fiction each week.
-Finish the first draft of Chaos Calling, have it printed, and complete paper edits by mid-February.

I've rocked it so far since Sunday. With sick kids/husband, I had to sneak out to a restaurant on Sunday evening for happy hour to get my writing done. Tough life, huh? :) Wrote 1,100 words in between beers and snacks. It was super.

Monday was a holiday, but I still did the "rise and write" routine. Then my parents took the kids for a few hours in the middle of the day, and I was able to really tackle the novel, with a quiet house. Something wasn't working at the end, and I think that's why finishing this novel has taken me so long…but it took getting all of the rough stuff down on the page before I could tell what was wrong and how to fix it. Oh, bother! I went from needing to complete two scenes, through slight rewrites of three other scenes, and ended up Monday with 1,200 new words written. However, I finished the day needing to complete three scenes. Argh! But it's more progress than it seems, because it means this draft will actually be clean -- no major rewrites facing me as I head into editing. That's a coup. Seriously. And I'll take it. :)

Today I'm staying home with sick kids (again). I did the "rise and write" thing, and got in 700 words before I had to crack my work laptop and get the minimum editing tasks accomplished for those folks. I only need one to two hundred more words on the current scene, and then I'll be back to two scenes to complete…where I started the week.

Being 3,000 into my weekly 5,000 goal feels great, though. And I've already done my "rise and write" two out of three times. YES! :)

How are you doing with your writing (and/or life) goals as the new year continues? Did you know we're through 6% of 2014 already? lol

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sunday Update: Nearly There! (On One More Book)

Writing goals are so funny. My husband stopped trying to keep track of the stages of all my projects long ago….not for a reason of disinterest, but because there are so many STEPS to completing a book. When I cheer "I'm DONE!" or "Finished!" he assumes I'm about to hit the publish button….but it's usually one of the previous steps I'm congratulating myself about. :)

Let's see…there's:
Concept development
FIRST DRAFT (aka -- the ACTUAL writing)
Paper edit
Incorporating paper edits (more ACTUAL writing)
The Editor
Incorporating The Editor's edits (more ACTUAL writing)
Beta Readers
Incorporating Beta Reader edits/comments
Final formatting run through
….and finally PUBLISH

The very cool thing is that over the years of practice I've gotten speedier at each and every stage. I trust my writer self a lot more now, but I'm also more brutal with her -- after all, the point has changed.

When I began, the point was to prove to myself I could finish a book, a publishable, fun to read book. I've done that repeatedly over the past couple of years, and that's no longer the point.

Now the idea is to finish a story with a minimum of futzing around, and move on to the next (in my list of well over 50 tales I want to tell….and growing).

On the other hand, I realized late in 2013 that I had to appreciate and enjoy the ACT OF WRITING more: that remains a major reason I pursue all of these tales, the challenge and exhilaration of setting the words of a story to the page. (Go back to my list above and note the stages at which this happens…I've discovered they're stages I'm constantly seeking and want to stay in ALL the time…which is one of the reasons for the many projects; I'm always WRITING something.)

How do I accomplish both goals? Improved efficiency and enjoyment of the craft -- are they compatible?  Yes. Here's how I'll do it: In 2014 I'll reclaim my morning writing from the days prior to babies. There was a time when I began my day in the way I chose. When you get your dream, your big life goal, accomplished first thing in the morning, it opens up all sorts of space in the mind for other things. I'm excited about both the practice and the ramifications, but now I have to get into the swing of it.

One time this week I rose at 5, walked the dog, poured a cup of coffee, and got in 500 words before the kids woke up. My goal is three days a week at this practice (two more days are in-office work days, and my office is a 60-mile commute away so I get out the door ASAP; and I'm not getting up uber early on the weekends).

My three days of rising early and writing won't replace the writing I fit in between things in 10 and 15 minute sprints (the way I've accomplished much of my writing while raising babies) or writing in the evenings. But the desire to get more of my writing done has finally started to outweigh the desire for more sleep…it should be a productive year.

I wrote just under 2,800 words this week (getting un-stuck on this book in the process) and finished one of the three remaining scenes in Chaos Calling, the next novel I'll publish. I plan to write at least 2,000 more in the next two days as I write the remaining two scenes.

This week's goals:
-Rise early and write (after walking the dog) Monday, Thursday & Friday
-Write at least 5,000 new words of fiction
-Finish the first draft of Chaos Calling, have it printed, and begin editing -- FAST! I want the paper edit completed in two to three weeks. This is an area where I've let manuscripts just hang out in the past, and that can't happen any more. This baby needs to be free. :)

Best of luck to my writer friends. Thanks for all of your support, and for your tolerance as I've been fairly quiet, working things out in my own mind. ROWers are a great crew. Best of luck this week!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Round of Words Goals for Winter 2014

Exciting times! Winter has arrived. :)

My goals for this round are very simple. Write 5,000 words of new fiction per week, and edit for two one-hour blocks each week.

I'm hoping to exceed that editing goal, because I'd like to have Chaos Calling, the sequel to my fantasy novel Queen Witch, published by April. That's ambitious with my history when it comes to editing novels. But I'm trying to get over my perfectionism. I've come to believe it doesn't actually help a story to rewrite a lot -- at least not once you've had sufficient practice with crafting stories. I actually completely messed up my first novel in the editing process, and it's still sitting in a box today.

Good books come from writers who know story. Story is the root of what touches people in fiction.

My first drafts are getting better and better. Trusting that is hard. And it's also hard to let go of so many years of the editing mind-set. (I edit as part of my day job and believe firmly in the value of multiple sets of eyes.) However, my best fiction is written fast, flowing from my creative side with my subconscious piping up and adding crucial tidbits I'd never know to employ. At times I feel almost meditative, euphoric, as the words just come. If you haven't gotten to this feeling in your writing yet, keep practicing, because it will happen if you train your brain. Let go of critical voice, tune out your internal editor, and tune into the flow of story.

Okay, enough about my developing writing philosophy. :)

I have about 6,000 to 8,000 words to add to Chaos Calling before it's ready for my editing side. That should take me about two weeks (because I always play around with other stories during the week; I won't lie and say my whole 5k will go to the major thing I'm working on). At that point everything will be there, every scene complete. Editing will consist of activating language, spotting typos, adding in anything I need to look up from past books or elsewhere, checking transitions, and possibly jazzing up the ending, if needed.

After Chaos Calling is complete, my major writing project starting in February is Shield!!! The fifth and final book in my Children of the Sidhe fantasy romance series. I can't wait to dig into this story -- it's been waiting a long time! I hope to have the first draft complete by the end of March.

And then I'll take on The Unseen Mirror, the final book after Chaos Calling.

In recent months I haven't felt up to tackling the big stories; birthdays, holidays, and two deaths in the family have meant a roller-coaster ride. But I'm through the swinging gate and on to better things, I'm sure. Meanwhile, I started several short stories just for fun that I will publish over the coming year, as they're ready. Just for fun.

Best of luck with your winter writing, fellow writers and ROWers!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Gifts for Girls

If you have a little lady between the ages of 3 and 6 on your Christmas list, I have you covered with a few gift ideas in this post. I've been thinking about shopping for this age group a lot (and time is short, so I need to quit thinking and actually SHOP. lol). My two daughters are ages 3 and just about 5, and I have several nieces ranging from 3 to 6. Not to mention two nephews, and most of these ideas would work for them, too. It's such a fun age!

Vigorous Indoor Play
It's winter time. That means too much time to kill indoors. While kids need to play outside no matter the season, it's obviously less common in winter. Luckily there are plenty of fun alternatives for energy busting play inside.
Hop balls. 
Toddler bowling. This year monster bowling looks super fun, but we already have a bowling set.
Learning Resources floor mat games. 

Encouraging Little Smarties
Try to stay away from electronic gifts -- kids get FAR too much screen time with the variety of gadgets already in the household. Their senses and brains need stimulation they can touch and manipulate.

Bob Books and other early reading books. Bob Books are great because they're tiny, bite size books that exercise a certain sound or word group -- very much first reader books. But kids like variety in their reading selection, so go crazy.

Activity books. Coloring is awesome. But at about 4 connect the dots and color by number are great additions. Maps, matching activities, and writing activities can keep a kiddo occupied, and learning, on a rainy winter afternoon.

Board games and other games. Hey, we can have fun and learn at the same time, you know. Board games are a great chance to connect with kids and help them learn without seeming teachy and preachy. Here are some GREAT ones. The Spot It! games, the Ladybug Game, and of course the classics like Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders. All great stuff! :)

Imagination, Imagination, Imagination
Kids are super at making the most of the tools they have. Stimulate their imaginations with some props and you'll be surprised at the variety of games they make up. It's a great chance for them to stretch their limits and if they're playing in a group, a great opportunity to develop social skills. Imagining and making up rules together is fabulous for growing brains.

Dress up stuff. So many options for girls in this area, from fairy wings to princess dresses. If you can find outside the box outfits that's even better; role playing and role creating is the key to this sort of play. And accessories are always in.

Craft supplies. Anything. And everything. At 3 they seem to like to cut or take apart whatever you give them and re-assemble to their own nifty designs. At 4 and 5 they take a more orderly approach, but WOW do they come up with some cool stuff when they have a bunch of supplies to go wild with. We go multimedia, using colored glues, markers, crayon, stickers, cotton balls, colored paper….and creating.

Melissa and Doug products….they're just the best. Each of their toys is an intriguing START, that kids can make their own. Try out the Latches Board for a 3 year old. On the sticker side, Play House Reusable Sticker Pad, Make a Face Sticker Pad, and the Jewelry and Nails Sticker Pad have been some of our favorites. But as I wrote this I saw several I added to my own shopping cart…eek! New toys! (Sorry, geeking out for a moment. I love to play. :))

Okay, so I've let you in on some of the fun stuff we play with at my place, and some stuff on my Christmas list for nieces and nephews. Have a blast!! And a wonderful holiday season!