Tag Archives: YA

A self-interview and the latest tour stops

Today’s stops on the blog tour:

Interview

I thought I’d do a self-interview today, sort of like a self-portrait. When a blog asks you to do an interview, you usually get a list of dozens of questions, and answer a certain number, usually 10-20. So I thought I’d go back to some of those interviews and answer ten questions I didn’t answer anywhere else. It should be fun!

Have you ever gone out in public with your shirt on backwards, or your slippers on, and when realizing it, just said screw it?

Sadly, yes! One day I was wearing black flip flops. I wore them all day long. When I went to walk the dog in the late afternoon, I looked down and realized I’d been wearing two different shoes all day! It was a bit late to worry about it them! And just recently, when I was in Uganda, I got up fairly early to spend the day at the hospital in Tororo. There was no power, so I got dressed in the dark (never a good idea!). As we were walking the 30 min to the hospital, my friend plucked my shoulder and said, “Your shirt’s on inside out!” I did eventually get to flip it around once I found a bathroom, but I had it on a good while like that!

If you could have any automobile, which would you have?

In my mind, I’d have a Bentley Continental convertible. But I couldn’t justify the expense (even if I had a ton of money)! So I’d have a Camaro convertible instead.

What do you do to unwind and relax?

At home, I usually either bake something, read, or watch something recorded on the DVR. If the weather’s nice, I like to walk. My absolute favorite way to unwind and relax is to be at the beach somewhere, walking barefoot in the sand, reading, and having a frozen adult beverage!

What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?

If I’m buying it at the grocery, Edy’s has a Special Edition caramel coconut cookie that is amazing. It’s basically a Samosa cookie ice cream. We’re also big on classic vanilla. If we’re out, I like a good chocolate peanut butter.

If you could be one of the Greek Gods, which would it be and why?

I can’t help but laugh at this question, because I’ve been reading Rick Riorden’s books over the last couple of years, and my image of the Greek gods has morphed into the descriptions he uses. But I would be Poseidon, definitely, since I’ve always loved the ocean.

You have won one million dollars what is the first thing that you would buy?

A house in the Bahamas. Not a big, fancy one. Just a small one with big wide porches, high ceilings, big windows and a view of the sea.

What is you favorite way to spend a rainy day?

Rainy days (like today!), especially in the winter, are for reading. Sometimes my kids and I will decide to do a movie marathon, which is almost always Lord of the Rings. Although we did a Blue Planet marathon one rainy day at the beach, and that was fun!

If you could take over the world, would you?

No way!! Can you imagine the stress??

Do you like the spotlight or lurking in the shadows?

Shadows! I’m an introvert, and a huge people-watcher, so I’m content to sit back and watch most of the time.

Summer or Winter?

I’m a 5th generation Floridian… Summer! Although I love to wear boots.

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A word about IXEOS

Calvin & Hobbes, always on an adventure!

Calvin & Hobbes, always on an adventure!

A new genre adventure is about to begin! As some of you know, to date I’ve published 3 books in 2 genres. I have two “cozy adventure” treasure hunts (what that means is that they’re clean and fun, and you don’t have to worry about anything embarrassing or gross) called Solomon’s Throne and The Hoard of the Doges. I also have a Christian historical romance set in the Civil War that’s also a mystery. It’s called Undaunted Love.

But now (maybe even today — we’ll see!) I am about to set off into a whole new genre: Young Adult sci-fi fantasy. With a lot of dystopian and a little romance thrown in. I’m really excited about IXEOS and the two books that will follow, IXEOS: Rebellion (April) and Darian’s War (June). I have had a complete blast writing them, for one thing, and I think the plot is fun, unique and interesting. There are lots of characters doing really cool things and trying to save the world. That’s what we all really want, isn’t it? To be the one to save the world?

IXEOS 800 Cover reveal and Promotional

Here are a few of the main characters from IXEOS:

Neahle McClelland.  Neahle is 18 when she gets lured to Ixeos, and she doesn’t feel like she has any special talents to offer the outsiders. She does feel like she might have something to offer the young French rebel leader, Gilles, though.

Clay McClelland.  When Clay arrives in Ixeos with his sister Neahle and his cousin Marty, he’s not excited by the adventure. He’s just plain mad. But he soon finds out he has a big part to play in freeing Darian, the rebel leader who’s been in prison for fifteen years.

Marty McClelland. When it came to looks, God didn’t take a lot of time on Marty, at least in comparison to his cousin Clay. But He made up for it in brains, because Marty is a primo hacker. When he finds out he can hack to his heart’s content on Ixeos, he thinks he’s in heaven. His fellow computer geek Marissa isn’t so bad, either.

Abacus & Vasco. These brothers were the first to arrive in Ixeos from Earth and are the leaders of the outsiders. Abacus is the planner and commander-in-chief, and Vasco is the adventurer. Together they’ve been fighting the Firsts and helping the rebels for over twenty years.

Landon. Landon is the man who got all the outsiders into this mess to begin with. No one knows how he brought them to Ixeos, but they sure know he won’t let them go home. With mysterious powers and a mission to free Darian and drive out the Firsts, he is the sole recruiter of his reluctant outsider army.

The situation on Ixeos is dire:  a humanoid alien race has taken over the planet, killed most of the humans and enslaved the rest. Small pockets of rebels inhabit the cities, but on their own, they can’t defeat the Firsts. Landon has brought teens from Earth to help, and with this ragtag army they will free Darian or die trying.

The book will be out this week — I hope you’ll pick up a copy and let me know what you think!

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The Birth of a Novel

Every time I publish a novel, I get a call from my dad about a month later. He says the same thing in every call: WHERE did you learn all this stuff? Followed by: Where in the world did you get that idea?

I reblogged this guest post about my backwards way of coming up with my ideas, starting with location and ending with characters. I’ve guest posted about my process of research. and I did one about sending it off to my production team. But I’ve never really written about the whole process all in one place.

Right now I have 5 novels that I’m planning to write, produce and release in 2013. One is in production now, having been written in 2012. The second is currently an almost-finished first draft. The third is pretty well fleshed out. The other two… Well, I know they’ll be Quinn adventures, and that’s about it. I think one will be in/around Egypt. I’ve been to Egypt and obviously it’s got enough history to make an interesting story.

So that’s the first step: location. Once I get to the point of researching that one, I’ll start with Egypt and begin searching for interesting trivia. I’ll make tons of notes, most of which I won’t use. I’ll research Alexander and Napoleon and their forays into the country. I’ll research the Kingdoms, the Ptolemies, and the rulers. Something I come across will tickle my imagination and I’ll follow that thread to other countries and interesting trivia. When I’ve got enough locations to make a good hunt I’ll figure out a way to connect those locations, which will give me a plot. I’ve already got my character: Rei and Gideon Quinn and their pal Mac McDonald, plus their boss Luis Xavier (aka the money man), so that’s one less thing to figure out.

By the time I’m ready to start writing I’ll have dozens of pages of scribbled notes (if you saw my handwriting you’d know that ‘scribbled’ is an accurate description). I’ll have a timeline and a list of my locations, plus some information about each location. I’ll know the beginning, the main plot, and the end. That’s about it. Then I’ll start a new file on Scrivener and start typing.

My daily goal is a minimum of 3,000 words a day. For me, that’s about 2-3 hours, even with a good amount of research while I’m writing, although there are days where it seems harder and takes longer. If all goes well, I’ll have the first rough draft in a month, typically about 90,000 words. I’ll do a quick edit for major things like typos, secondary characters whose names change for no apparent reason, and to add in some description, and then send the book to my beta readers. I try to enlist a dozen beta readers, because my experience has been that only about half will actually be able to do it. (This isn’t intentional — they all want to. But life happens, and it’s a lot to take on as a favor!)

I usually give my beta readers several weeks to a month to get back to me. In the meantime, I also start an edit, this time on paper. I find that I tend to skim when I read on a computer screen, so I print it out and use a red pen (not purple – I’m not worried about my self-esteem!). When the beta readers’ comments come back, I incorporate those that resonate with me, or anything that’s mentioned by more than one person, and then do the “big edit.”

The “big edit” is the one that takes the longest. This one merges my own on-paper edits with the beta readers’ ideas, plus involves a very detailed reading of the work on the computer. I take it one page at a time, putting in my edits and then rereading that section and making more changes. This is where word selection, overused words (my most overused word is ‘just’), and adding description comes in heavily. Obviously, this edit takes the longest. I pay attention to Scrivener’s grammar and spelling checks, too.

After this, I move the document from Scrivener to Word and add the chapter breaks. I move it to my pc and employ Grammarly, fixing the spelling problems Scrivener’s tool didn’t catch (an amazing number), checking for comma usage, and doing a Find for overused words (again). I’ll catch things I didn’t catch up to this point, even though I’m trying to be very thorough. Once this is done, I move it back to Word on my Mac and use yet another spelling and grammar checking tool. Believe it or not, Word will catch things that neither Grammarly nor Scrivener caught! In IXEOS, there were three instances where I had “the” twice in a row. Neither of the other programs caught that!

One more quick read-through and I’m done. At this point, I communicate all the pertinent information to my production team at Streetlight Graphics. I’ve written here, here and here what questions I answer for each book. The hardest of these is the blurb, although I’ve gotten a lot better at those the more of them I’ve done. I usually do a lot of back and forth emailing with my daughter and my husband with these until we’ve gotten it fine-tuned. My daughter is especially helpful here because she’s my best beta reader, and so she’s read the books. My husband used to be in advertising, so his input is good, but he hasn’t read the books, so he is limited on what he can suggest. (He did read – and like – Solomon’s Throne, to be fair!)

After Streetlight Graphics has my information, my role changes to advisor and critic. We currently have the cover of IXEOS in draft form. It needs some tweaking, though, so it’s back on Glendon’s desk. Once I get a cover I like, though, I stick with that brand within that genre, so it gets easier. (You can see from this list that the 2 Quinn books have very similar covers, but different from the romance. The upcoming YA sci-fi fantasy is totally different from these. As a multi-genre author, it’s important that each have its own brand so that readers can readily identify those in the genre that they prefer — I probably won’t get a huge amount of crossover.)

After the cover I’ll be reviewing the formatting. I produce my novels in both print and ebook formats, so we’ll check them out and make sure the font and the flourishes that separate scenes are good, the gutters are right, the chapter breaks are correct, etc. The same goes for ebooks. When all those are correct, I get my baby back and it’s time to upload. CreateSpace and Amazon are super easy, and Amazon’s KDP program gets the ebooks up and running usually within 12 hours. CreateSpace will have a draft copy ready for approval in about the same amount of time. Apple is a real pain and takes weeks for approval. Kobo and Barnes & Noble are easy. Smashwords is somewhere in between. For IXEOS, since it’s book 1 in a trilogy, I may only put it on Amazon and enroll it in KDP Select, which will mean a very easy upload process indeed.

Once it’s up, it’s time to promote. Actually, the promotion starts before this point, with “coming soon” posts on my personal Facebook page, my Facebook author page, Twitter, and this blog. As I’ve had success with the other books, I’ve got more money to put in outside advertising and will be having 2 launch blog tours in March. I don’t like to use Twitter and Facebook as scrolling bulletin boards, but I do put information on new books and promotions there regularly (and hopefully inoffensively!).

Even after the initial launch phase is done, the books need constant TLC in the form of paid and free advertising, short and sweet updates on Facebook, Twitter and the blog, blog tours and guest blogging, and word of mouth. The beauty of being an indie publisher is that I don’t have a short window to make money before my book is pulled like a traditionally published author. My books will be around as long as the internet and ebook stores are, so I don’t have to go nuts, I just need to keep exposure going. I’m less panicked about it all now because I’ve figured out that I do better taking a Saturday and planning my marketing for about a 6 week period all at once. Then I don’t have to worry about it. I have a Mac calendar set up just for marketing so I can quickly refer to it.

And that’s about it. Once it’s out there, it’s out there! The beauty of indie publishing is that you can revise and republish very easily, and I’ve done that for 2 of the books. But otherwise, it’s just doing your best to see that they succeed once they’ve left the nest, and believing in yourself and your product. After all, this is a business, and you have to believe in what you’re selling. If you don’t, no one else will!

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When a book leaves the nest

thinking_cap15.0

I finished IXEOS this week and sent everything off to my great production team at Streetlight Graphics.  As an indie author I’m still in charge of the cover and the final formatting and all the details, but since I’m not able to do those things myself, there’s a bittersweet moment when you release it and hope for the best.

Writing fiction is a strange profession. Even more than actors, we make stuff up for a living. We create people out of whole cloth, name them, nurture them, give them a home, a life, crazy foibles and wonderful qualities. We make this one a villain and that one a hero. How do we choose which is which? Who knows.

A lot of writers do elaborate studies of their characters before they write them. There are many forms you can download from the internet, like this one, to help you.

I don’t do that. Maybe because developing my characters is the last thing I do when working on a story (backwards, I know), when I start a novel I usually only know the following about my main characters:

  • First and last name and their nicknames if applicable
  • Physical appearance
  • Home town
  • Where they live now
  • Their job (which assumes certain educational dynamics)
  • Marital status

That’s it! I have really big Stickie notes (they’re about 6”x8”) that I write this information on, and I stick it to my wall so I don’t forget who’s who.  If a secondary character comes along who become important, they get a Stickie note, too. Once the story is underway, I almost never look at these bright orange or green rectangles adorning my wall.

Regardless of how you birth your people, you’re still very invested in them by the time you’ve written a novel. You don’t want to kill them off (although sometimes you have to); you don’t want them to turn out to be bad, when you thought they were good. You don’t even want to say goodbye to them when you type THE END, which is why so many of us write series using those same characters.

But even if they’re coming back in the next book (and in the case of IXEOS, they are), you still have to let them fly. You have to do your editing and make your notes and communicate your ideas to your production team, and then you have to hand that baby over to someone else to take care of for a while. (If you’re a parent, it’s not unlike the first time you got a babysitter.)

Which is what I did two days ago. I’m not sure what happened that day. When I woke up I had 6 more chapters to edit in my “big edit,” which is very detailed, and still needed to run it through my grammar programs. That should have been 2 pretty full days of work. But somehow, at 6:00 that evening, I was done! I couldn’t believe it. I’m not sure I was ready, to be honest. But I was done, and I got most of the information needed to produce the book compiled and sent off. By the end of that night the only thing left was the blurb.  I sent that yesterday.

So now it’s temporarily out of my hands. I have a pretty good idea of how I want the cover to look, but I’m open to other ideas, too, so I may end up with several very different mock-ups to choose from. Since this is YA, a new genre for me, the covers will all be very different from anything I’ve published before. That’s exciting but also a little scary – I know what I like in an action adventure cover. I don’t know what I like in a Young Adult! I guess we’ll find out…

I leave for Uganda three weeks from tomorrow. I’ll be out of the country without power and internet for two and half weeks. When I leave, I’ll either have a new baby just launched into cyber-space, or we’ll miss the deadline and I won’t get it out in the world until early March. But once it’s out there… Well, while I can edit and modify once it’s published, for the most part it’s got to stand on its own.

Pushing the “publish” button on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and Kobo and Smashwords is a lot like sending your child off to college… Except the books don’t call for money.

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Writing on a jet plane – NaNoWriMo

Last night I flew to Houston, because I have the privilege of sharing my experiences with Hospice Jinja (Uganda) at a fundraiser here tonight. It’s a long way to come for a short thing, but anything I can do to help the great people at the hospice is worth it.

The flight from my city to Houston was three hours long. The day had been that weird sort of day it always is when you have a later flight: you pack, you pace, you do some errands, you check that your family will have food, you check that you didn’t forget anything, you panic when you realize you did forget something, you check Facebook and the weather report a million times. I finally left a bit early for the airport, thinking I’d have time to sit down in my airline club lounge and write.

Well, the line at security was the longest I’d ever seen it. It took me forty-five minutes to get through, so by the time I got to the club I had less than an hour. By the time I got my Diet Coke and cookies (because they cancel each other out, you know), I had less than thirty minutes. When you’re starting a new chapter, that can be a difficult amount of time to try to squeeze some writing in. So I didn’t.

Another long line to get on the plane. I’m spoiled by having an “elite status” with Delta due to all my flying, but I was flying United. In some sort of strange airline math, they called group 7, then group 1, then group 3 (there was no 2), then 4 (there was no one in group 4), then group 5 (me), and finally (I presume) group 6. More line in the jetway, then the usual jockeying for your carry-on bag’s position in the overhead bins. Then the “no electronic devices” period, because, God forbid, we crash the planes with our Kindles.

So finally, I got my laptop down when all danger of triggering a dire airline disaster was past. I was on the aisle, and another guy with a laptop was by the window. The poor college student between us just sat there, unentertained. The guy was doing math problems and waving his arms around… Best not to watch, lest we be diverted to Chicago with an F15 escort. Anyway, I got to writing, finally. NaNoWriMo waits for nothing! (Okay, not totally true, but at that point, I was determined!)

Because I had no internet access for maps, and I had two groups of characters off on adventures, I just had to let bad things happen to them where they were. Bad things are good when you need lots of words, so, in less than an hour and a half, I had about 3300 words (for a total count of 23,725). One group was safe, and one woman’s life is still hanging in the balance. It was quite fun, actually, but I’ll have to resolve all that today and move along.

At almost 25,000 words, since this is a Young Adult novel, I’m probably 1/3 of the way through the story. I may have to change the title, which has been Darian’s War, because I have somehow managed to have very little to do with Darian so far. But otherwise, I’m pretty happy with it, and with my NaNo progress.

How are you doing? We’re in the dreaded Week 2 – are you struggling? Are you flying with wings of pegasi? Keep plowing through, even if you don’t make your word count… Remember, this week and next are the hard ones. You’ll get a second wind once the end is in sight and you’ve had your turkey and pie.

Here’s my mandatory disclaimer – this isn’t an official NaNoWriMo site, and the opinions are my own! Happy writing!

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