Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Working on a Sequel is a Lot Like Writing Fanfiction

...it is, okay?

Seriously, though. One of the best parts about writing fanfiction is the simple fact that the characters and the setting are already established. The readers know who, for example, Cyclops and Wolverine are without having to launch into a description of their backstories and where they came from. I mean, you can still do that if you're doing an Alternate Universe, but that's not the point.

The point here is that fanfiction has an already-established universe, which means that you can just jump right in. You don't need to worry about explaining what the characters look like. You don't need to worldbuild. You can just hit the ground running and GO.

Now, with the release of Rebel Rendezvous, I'm already working on the sequel (which sadly doesn't have a name yet; I know, I'm working on it), and I have to tell you, this feels incredibly familiar.

Obviously, the rules are slightly different because this is a book, and even in sequels, when you have a newly-established universe, you should still do a little bit of calling back and explaining, in case people forgot the details between the release of one book and the next

But the principle is essentially the same. I've already established the universe in this series, and I've already established the characters. All that's left is to dive in with both feet into the plot, and I am absolutely loving it.

It's so freeing to be able to hit the ground running and to jump into the action knowing that my readers are coming with me, that they know who Elaine and Andrew and Michelle are.

And considering I'm going to be working on this series for the foreseeable future, with six books already written in total (in rough draft form)... This is a great feeling to have.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Write to Your Mood

It may seem a little crazy, but I have a gazillion different writing projects going on at any given time.

I'm a huge nerd, and I've been writing fanfiction since before I even knew that it was called fanfiction. And ever since I started writing, I've always had at least a couple fan projects. Right now, for example, I have two collaborative universes running with one of my best friends, not to mention the collaboration I've talked about here before with a couple dozen other writers, and three of my own, separate stories.

Yeah, I know, it's a lot.

This isn't even mentioning the fact that I'm working on the Halfsie series as well as a book with my friend that we will maybe probably someday eventually publish; we'll see how it goes.

It's a lot.

But there's a reason I have so many different projects going on at once, and it's the simple fact that I can't write something that I'm not in the mood to write. If I'm at a point in one of my projects where I'm supposed to be writing about two characters in love but I've had a particularly crummy day, it's just not going to happen. But if one of my other stories is at a point in the story where the hero has been captured, well, that's absolutely perfect for a crummy mood.

(And vice versa: It is so hard to write about something bad happening to the protagonist while I'm in a good mood.)

But having multiple projects keeps me from ever falling into the trap of "waiting for the inspiration to strike." I know for a fact that if I ever wait that long, I'm never going to actually get any inspiration, and I won't write every day.

This way, not only am I writing every day, but I am able to move several stories forward and never feel like I am neglecting a story that I want to tell.

Everyone wins, right?

I'd highly recommend doing this if you're a writer or aspiring writer: write to your mood. Write different stories, and have different settings. If nothing is appealing to you, you can even skip ahead to a part of the story that you want to get to later!

Just make sure that you keep writing, no matter what.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

New Book: Rebel Rendezvous


So, guess what! The Kindle version of my new book, Rebel Rendezvous, is available now on Amazon. :) The paperback will be up either today or tomorrow… For some reason, Amazon thinks I have a typo in my title. (No, Amazon. It really is called the “Halfsie” series. You let me call it that on the ebook so what is the problem with the paperback, huh?) But I’ve resubmitted, and hopefully, that will go through today.
In the meantime, for all you ebook/Kindle readers, here is Book 1 of the Halfsie series: Rebel Rendezvous! (Follow the link here to get it!)
This book follows the story of Michelle, a half-human, half-witch who accidentally stumbles into a war. Well, I say accidentally. What actually happens is that the ex-princess of the magical realm kidnaps and press-gangs her into service.
Problem is? Michelle doesn’t know the rules. She doesn’t know how to keep her magic from leaving bits of herself behind, and she doesn’t know how dangerous messing with Time itself can be until she’s in the middle of a temporal prison, on a ship in the middle of the ocean where the days repeat themselves to keep the prisoners from learning, forcing them to make the same escape attempt over and over again.
The only way out is to break the rules. But again, that’s hard to do when you don’t know the rules in the first place to break them.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Being Nice Is Not Hard

So one of my dear friends was talking to me a while ago over email. We usually chat throughout the day as we go about our lives; she teaches art classes and I work from home on editing and writing projects, so we have weird schedules. More often than not, we end up emailing while she's getting her daily coffee and I'm just sitting down to breakfast after the first few news articles of the day.

Anyway, this particular morning, she was telling me about a group of ladies who were meeting for some kind of political club. She was getting angrier and angrier watching these women, who were avidly discussing the need to "help the poor" and "lift up those who need help" while being absolutely and astoundingly rude to the poor employee trying to serve their coffee.

Finally, my friend couldn't stand it any more, stalked over to them, and told them flat-out what hypocrites they were and made them apologize for their behavior.

She is my Intimidating Friend, and I feel like I could probably survive a zombie apocalypse if I could just get to her house.

Anyway, I was thinking about that conversation as I headed out to the grocery store about a ten minute drive away from my house. (My place is waaaaaay back in the very back of the road we live on, so it takes like five minutes just to drive out of my neighborhood onto a main road.)

I got to the store and sped my way through the shelves, all the time thinking about how weird it was shopping on my own. See, despite the fact that my husband and I both have a car, we always go shopping together, because it's an excuse to get out of the house and be around each other, and we don't have the money to just go out to eat every week for a date night.

Anyway, this week I had to grab some chicken for a meal I was making that very night, because we were having people over, and I wanted to make a nice meal. It required several hours of prep, though, so I couldn't just wait for my husband to get home, so there I was, at the grocery store by myself for the first time in almost three years.

Which was weird, I gotta tell you.

I was having college student flashbacks.

Anyway, I got up to the checkout counter, and the lady checking me out was one I'd seen before. She's a middle-aged woman who has, I swear to you, encyclopedic knowledge of every single sale going on at the store, and she's very enthusiastic about life in general. We talked for a bit, and, remembering the conversation I'd had with my friend earlier, I decided to turn my smile up to 100 and really actually engage with the people who were checking me out.

In addition to the woman scanning my groceries, there was a young man, probably a teenager but possibly closer to my age, I wasn't sure, who was doing the bagging. He was at least six feet tall, maybe taller, and he had that It's Tuesday At Lunchtime and I Am Exhausted look on his face, bless his soul.

But I turned to him and said, as brightly as I could, "Happy Tuesday!"

He looked surprised for a second and turned to face me as if he wasn't sure if I was talking to him.

I continued on, undeterred, "I mean, I'm always happy when Tuesday comes around and it's not Monday anymore, right?"

His entire face broke out into a grin, and he began animatedly talking with me. He told me that he had been born on a Monday, so he didn't bear it quite as much ill will as other people, and then we chatted with the teller about birthdays and the weather and such.

When I was finished paying for all the food I'd bought, the bagger offered to help me take my cart to my car. Now, being an independent woman and also being naturally wary of being alone with any stranger ever, I assured him that this wasn't a problem, but he told me he had to go get the carts anyway, so I let him cheerfully lead the way back to my car.

He helped me unload groceries while we talked about how cold it was that morning. (The flowers had finally started to bloom and then we had a cold snap. WHY.) I told him that I had lived in Utah for several years and that I loved coming back home to live in the South because it wasn't nearly as cold. He told me that he had grown up in Ghana, where there were only two seasons: wet and dry. And he hated the dry season.

We chatted about Ghana for a bit, and he seemed genuinely pleased to be able to talk to someone about his home country. When we'd unloaded the groceries, he fixed me with a huge smile and then toddled off with my cart.

When I got home, I was beaming from ear to ear.

I don't really have a "moral of the story" to this post or anything. It was just a nice pick-me-up moment that day, and I thought I'd share it. :)

Friday, March 25, 2016

Find Yourself a Writing Group

Find yourself a writing group.

Seriously, just do it.

It doesn't even have to be an official writing group that gets together in person and trades manuscripts. Just find people who are willing to read your stuff and whose stuff you are willing to read and then work with them.

This is not hard, and if you're a nerd like me, you're probably already doing it. In fact, I didn't realize I'd been doing it since I was thirteen until I stopped being part of that community of writers for a while and then came back at age twenty-three into a new one and realized how helpful such a group can be.

But maybe I should start from the beginning.

So. Thirteen-year-old Shelby. Trying to figure out her life and starting to grow a little more confident in her ability to write book-length projects (see: the book I wrote in middle school that my longsuffering English teacher read, bless her patient soul...that thing was awful). So tweenage me started watching this show called Teen Titans, and yes, it is the best show ever, thanks for asking. Go watch it... but not that awful Teen Titans Go! thing that Cartoon Network has right now. That's the WORST.

Right...where was I? Anyway, tweenage me had this obsession with Teen Titans, and as teenage girls who are burgeoning writers tend to do, the only way I could express those feelings was to write about it.

My first story, I'll admit, was awful. I don't even have it on my fanfiction account to this day, and I've kept literally everything else I ever wrote on there, mostly so I can look back on it and see how far I've grown. But that first story? It was basically a self-insert filled with all the cliches you could ever hope for and topped with plenty of melodrama.

But you know what? A couple people in the Teen Titans forum I was part of read it, and they stopped to give me some constructive advice on how to improve.

I kept writing, spurred on by the idea that people were reading my stuff, and I continued to improve with every story. A "what if" story helped me to write the characters' voices instead of my own voices, a dramatic tale of death and love and resurrection and a descent into madness and villainy for one of the main characters checked all the melodrama boxes but ultimately ended up giving me the most growth as it attracted an older writer, one who was in college, to my work, which she said had "potential."

Potential. I liked that word.

I tried a few other things, experimentally. When the show ended, I played with a continuation of the series that tied it into other DC universes like Justice League. I also tried my hand at a scifi Alternate Universe (AU) that is to this day one of my favorite things I've ever written. That particular story is what really solidified my mentor's relationship with me, as she commented on every single chapter with specific reviews, pointing out paragraphs and lines that I needed to fix as well as dialogue and character moments that I was doing well or improving on.

In return, I found that I was learning how to do the same for others. In fact, by the time I'd been on the forum for a few years, I even had my own mentee who was twelve and just starting to learn how to write. I don't know why she decided I was the one to ask for writing advice, but I was determined to pass on the same kindness and attention that my mentor had given me.

When I got older and the show was over, my interest sort of petered out, and I took a hiatus from that forum for a few years. I made a semi-triumphant return my freshman year of college and wrote a few drabbles and one-shots, but college overtook my life once more, and I really only checked in from time to time to help another new mentee of mine, who was fourteen and honestly is probably a published author by now, because the stuff she was writing at that age was about on level with my own stuff.

Anyway, college kicked my butt and kept me out of the area of fanfiction for a while. I barely had enough time to work on my Real Life books (I published one my junior year and one my senior year) and keep up with homework and dating (I was engaged to marry my sweetheart my last semester of college), so I didn't have time to be part of a community like that.

I moved on to the real world and got myself a job and put my husband through college, then switched to freelance work just before he graduated because I was starting to have really bad anxiety attacks from the pressures of my current job.

Once I started freelancing, though, I realized that I suddenly had the chance to do more with my time while I was working from home. Not only had I cut my commuting time down to nothing but also my anxiety was much more manageable and I wasn't spending every day just trying to get by! I could write fanfiction!

I started playing with the Avengers fandom as well as the Superwholock fandom (including, I kid you not, a Jurassic Park/Supernatural crossover that is pretty much my favorite thing ever) and just as I was playing with a de-aging Avengers story, I got a message from someone I didn't know asking if I wanted to be part of a writing collaboration.

I decided to try it (why the heck not, right?) and ended up submitting my application to what has turned out to be a years-long project of love and stress and beauty that is a Marvel/Hunger Games crossover. Because of that collaboration, I've had the chance to work with over a dozen other authors, all of whom are at various stages of their writing careers and abilities, and I've seen my own writing ability skyrocket because of it.

Seriously, reading my first entry for the project and then reading my most recent entry? It's practically like reading two different people.

And I lay the blame for my improved writing entirely at the feet of the group of writers I've been working with, because we are constantly pushing each other to improve and to grow. In particular, some of the girls that write the characters my own character has allied with during the story have become dear friends of mine, and I email one of them almost daily.


My Easter Post

In my dining room, there is a gorgeous picture of Jesus Christ, a shepherd's crook in His hand and sheep behind Him, hanging proudly on the wall. It was a Christmas present from my parents, who have resolved to give me and my husband one single "big" gift every year to help us to continue to make our home our own.

It's probably one of my favorite things about my house right now, because it brings warmth and light into the dining room and the living room area, and it's a good reminder when I'm living in a sea of craziness, especially having a job working with the 24-hour news circus in the middle of an election year, or what peace and comfort I can find from my beliefs.

In that spirit, I wanted to share a video below for Easter.

Hallelujah.

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Different Types of Re-Reading

Okay, so as anyone who follows me on Tumblr knows, I've been on this binge read lately of the Hardy Boys books. I absolutely loved this series when I was about ten, but I had only read a few here and there that I was able to get my hands on in the school library or in secondhand stores and such. But I'm an adult now, which means I get to spend my money the way I want!

...Okay, so it means I can spend a carefully allotted portion, no larger than strictly necessary, which will not interfere with saving for adoption and/or paying bills...you know what, just run with me on this.

Anyway, because I can only buy about five or six at a time with my monthly spending money, I usually finish the books I've got about halfway through the month. But is that enough to sate my appetite? Oh no. Definitely not.

So I go back through the ones I own (I have almost 40 of the 65 bluebacks) and re-read them, and I've noticed something interesting. There are three different types of re-reads (at least in the case of Hardy Boys reading), and I use them all in my adventures.

1. The "Catch Everything I Missed the First Time Around" Method

So, okay, I'll be honest. The first time I read a book, I don't necessarily read every word. I just don't. I speed through the whole thing because what I really want to know is what happens and whodunnit and how they dunnit.

So this method is usually the one I employ on re-reads out of sheer necessity. I take it a little bit slower and notice things like Joe flirting with Iola that one time.

This is also my favorite method of reading things like the Harry Potter series because I swear to you I catch something new every single time I read those books. Every single time. And I've read them at least five times a piece (more for each book before book four, which is the point where I started reading the series in the publication life of those books). 

I like catching new things, because it makes me appreciate the books all the more! I like being pleasantly surprised and falling in love with little moments. It's a relaxing, enjoyable experience.

2. The "Only Re-Read My Favorite Parts" Method

Yeah. I do this frequently. Especially with my favorite books, like What Happened at Midnight and The Wailing Siren Mystery. Because sometimes you just need to read about Frank and his friends being intrepid heroes rescuing Joe from the clutches of evil. And sometimes you just need to read about Joe and Chet being cornered by the bad guys and unable to signal the danger to Frank.

I'll admit, this is usually the method of re-reading when a book is particularly exciting and I just want something to get my heart racing. Because there are some parts of a book that are always a guaranteed adrenaline rush, no matter what. Like the battles in Tolkien's works or the climax of a good Alex Rider novel. 

It's like when I re-watch Doctor Who on Netflix and just want to watch the parts in "Blink" where the Weeping Angels scare the living daylights out of me (y'know, back before they became "common" bad guys are were much more existentially terrifying).

3. The "Read the Whole Thing Exactly the Same Way Because It's Been Too Long" Method

The most embarrassing part of this method is seriously how often I have to employ it. Or maybe it's the fact that I'll be sitting there re-reading with a growing sense of "Oh yeah, that's how this goes!" *sigh* One day I will have perfect memory recall and I'll stop being surprised by books I only read six months ago. Seriously, Shelby.

And yet this is somehow still the most fun of all the methods, because it's almost like experiencing a book for the first time all over again, and isn't that what we all wish would happen? It's especially nice in mystery novels like the Hardy Boys books because if I forgot how the bad guys were doing their bad guy thing, how could I know the ending, right?

It's always fun to be surprised again. To forget about the fast-paced adrenaline of The Books of Pellinor that should really not scare me this much because I already read all four. To feel my mouth go dry as Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon are at odds in the Jedi Apprentice series even though I read that series like nine bazillion times as a kid. I like re-living those moments.

So maybe I take it back. I think I won't take that perfect memory recall upgrade, thanks.