Monday, July 16, 2018

Adventure Dream: Alien Negotiations

When I get done with this series, I'm going to write one of these adventure dreams, I swear.

Here's another one, which I posted on my personal Facebook as well:

This time, I was a trained alien assassin who could take down just about anything thrown at me. The Earth had been invaded by huge aliens, and the remaining humans were in an enclave trying to survive the onslaught. I and the other alien killers were able to hold the line for a while... but eventually they sent in big enough creatures that we knew our time was limited.
So, in a desperate bid for survival, the government started a program to try and combine the two races - and they basically handed me a tiny alien kid to raise and study, with the knowledge that if he turned evil, I'd have the know-how to stop him.
Only... I got attached, and when the time came to send him out as essentially an agent of chaos to take down the aliens from the inside... I didn't want to send him. Which is how I found myself instead being smuggled by the boy into alien society. By this time, I was old and gray, but some of the aliens remembered me, and the integration was rocky. But, y'know, he tried. And we sort of accidentally ended up turning ME into the agent for change and peace.
Eventually, we came to an agreement, with the aliens agreeing to give humanity time to evacuate Earth with what little population we had left... but I ended up staying with my adopted alien son and being buried there.
I mean on the one hand, it's an epic action movie dream. On the other, I may have had adoption on my mind now that our home study paperwork has been sent in for review...

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Nicest Rejection Letter

So, obviously, rejection letters are the worst. They just are. But I got the nicest rejection letter from a publishing company that I submitted my infertility story too, and I just had to share it:

We would like to thank you for your submission, I Still Don’t Have a Miracle Baby: When “Someday” Feels Like a Four-Letter Word, and for the time, effort, and skills that have gone into preparing your manuscript for our consideration. After careful evaluation of your manuscript, we have decided not to publish at this time.

Although we did not accept your manuscript, we recognize the courage it takes to present a work for others to review. Thank you for being willing to share your very personal experiences. There are many families out there who would find comfort in knowing they are not alone. I hope this rejection does not discourage you from continuing to write and from further using your talents in a way that will bless others.

I think it's the second paragraph that sticks out to me the most. I've felt for a while that there are people that I can help by telling my story, and it really is nice to have that validation, not gonna lie.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Tedious Part of Editing

The closer we get to August, the more excited I'm getting for the release of Prisoners and Puppet Strings, but to get there, I have to first finish editing and formatting this thing.

I'm in the final stages, which is typesetting, but that is honestly the most tedious part of the whole process. This involves going through every page and making sure that the edges look neat. That means names aren't broken on different lines; individual paragraphs don't end with little words hanging off the end; page breaks don't leave little lines hanging on their lonesome.

The nice part about doing typesetting for my own book is that I'm the author, so if I decide that the formatting is wonky on a paragraph, I can just make the executive decision to rework a sentence or two so that it fits better.

I can't do that when I'm editing other people's stories, though. For example, I recently finished typesetting my grandfather's personal history, and I had to put a lot more tricks and little tweaks into play to preserve his writing. After all, that's a piece of my family history; I can't just rewrite parts of it!

I played with the font sizes, the line spacing, everything. And at the end of the day, I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. The pages all line up well, and there aren't any weird page breaks or paragraph endings.

Now I just have to do the same thing for this book...

All this work is going to be worth it in the end; I know that. But it's so. tedious.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Sneak Peek: Prisoners and Puppet Strings

Okay, I'm down to the last round of editing. It's mostly just formatting now, with one final read-through to make sure I caught all the changes I needed to make after the big changes that my sister suggested. This means that I'll be putting out Book Two, as promised, come August. :D

But I'm too excited to wait, so here's a little sneak peek:

I really could have gone my entire life never knowing what it felt like to wake up to a full-out assault on my home.

Seriously, I was just minding my own business, sleeping peacefully and dreaming of the memories of hundreds of years I’d lost—bits and pieces, like the taste of sea salt on a boat to America or the sound of muskets in the woods—when out of nowhere, the entire earth seemed to shake with the force of a full-press magical attack.

I had been living in a large underground compound with the Rendezvous, a rebel organization of witches dedicated to ousting the tyrant king of the magical realm (hi, Dad). And the whole point of living in literal dirt was to keep the Royalists, the witches loyal to King William, off our trail.
But they must have found us anyway, I guess, because all of a sudden, I found myself trying desperately not to get swallowed up in the dirt around me as it all came tumbling down, threatening to bury the entire Rendezvous alive in our beds.

Which wasn’t a problem for most of the Rendezvous witches, since we could heal from anything, including fatal wounds, given enough magical power and enough time. The problem was that my best friend, Aaron, and my newly acquired soul sister (literally—she had a piece of my soul . . . it’s a long story), Izzy, slept in the same room as me. And they were decidedly not magical and would not heal from being buried.

I acted more on instinct than anything else as I threw out both hands and pressed them into the dirt around me. I had been learning more and more magic since joining the Rendezvous, and one of my specialties was exactly this kind of thing—communicating with the elements around me. I had been able to do amazing things like create a tiger out of the dirt or turn lightning into a sword—surely I could hold off an avalanche of dirt long enough to get my friends out, right? 

I dug my hands deeper into the dirt and willed it to make a bubble, a sort of shield, around the room I shared with my friends. With so many other witches working on the dirt and walls and tunnels to make them collapse, I could feel the conflict in the ground itself as I begged the earth to give me a little space . . . just for a moment longer. 

It was hard to see with all the dust and debris falling down around me, trying to bury me, but I pressed my way across the room to where Izzy and Aaron’s hammocks were, and I knew I’d found them when I very nearly tripped over both of them. 

Now that I knew where my friends were, I stopped trying to hold back the collapse of the whole room and focused instead on just making one shield—over three people. I could hear the dirt and rocks crashing down around us as 

I crouched down to their level. Aaron had pulled Izzy to the ground and was covering her body with his as the only shield he could give her without any powers, and I heard both of them cry out as the room battered itself against my shield. 

It was horrifically loud, and even I closed my eyes against the avalanche that buried the three of us. Even though I had an energy shield up between us and the falling earth, I couldn’t help feeling unnerved watching an entire room buckle in toward us. 

After that, it was a matter of trying to maintain the thin energy shield, the only thing keeping us from being buried alive and making our room our tomb. Even after the initial rush of dirt, I could feel the earth pressing in on us, trying to get through the bubble I had formed and crush us like we were supposed to be crushed by that assault.

The roar of the avalanche faded out until it was just the groaning of the dirt pressing against my shield. I peeked one eye open to check on my friends in the suddenly oppressive silence just as Aaron finally picked his head up. His red hair was caked in dirt, and even inside the shield, the dust was still swirling thickly enough that it was hard for me to see his green-eyed stare.

“Thanks,” he said hoarsely and coughed as he gently let Izzy up—at least a little bit—so that she, too, could see what had happened.

Izzy was the youngest of the group at fourteen (and a half), though actually, of the two “humans” in the Rendezvous, she was probably the sturdiest. Aaron, at sixteen, was taller and bigger, but Izzy technically had a little bit of magic in her now that we were soul sisters It wasn’t enough that she could fully heal like I could, but she could at least see danger coming, since that magic gave her the gift of sight in the magical world. 

Not to mention she was made of sterner stuff to start with. She was a better version of me in so many ways. Strong, self-assured, and quick to act, she seemed to be far more willing to say the kind of sharp-tongued things that I always hesitated to say, even if I thought them too. We even looked like opposites. She had short, naturally curly hair and dark skin, and I had long, white hair and was practically see-through, like a bad movie rendering of what a drowned ghost might look like. 

“How long can you keep that up?” Izzy asked after a short moment, looking around not only at all the dirt trying to press in on us but at my shaking arms.

“As long as I need to,” I replied without missing a beat. 

Izzy looked clearly skeptical, but when the ground around us shook and the shield groaned but didn’t give in, she fell silent. None of us wanted to say what we were thinking—that the shied wasn’t going to last forever—and jinx it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Let Me Brag on My Husband

Okay, this blog is largely dedicated to my writing, but I want to take a moment to get personal and to talk about my husband, because I think it's important that everyone knows how amazing he is. He needs to hear it more often, and I like to do it publicly so he can't pretend it never happened. ;)

Mostly, I want to brag about how thoughtful he is.

See, my birthday is coming up, and this boy knew exactly what to do about that. He knows that I'm pretty much obsessed with the Jurassic Park series... to the point that if I don't know what I want to watch to have some sound in the background, I'll often pick one of those movies. I've seen them so often that I can even fall asleep watching them.

So when I say I'm obsessed, I mean it.

Anyway, knowing this, and knowing that the next movie is coming out this week, my beautiful husband decided, without prompting, that the best possible way for me to spend my birthday would be at an IMAX showing of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

I didn't even know he'd booked times! He totally pulled this off as a surprise to me, and when he told me, I started giggling madly. And you should have seen the proud little smile he was wearing when he saw my reaction.

I love that smile, by the way. I love it when my husband is proud of himself. He's so shy and he's so down on himself sometimes. And that's why I share this story: I want him to feel loved and to feel proud of himself.

So, my sweet man: I love you. You're doing great. <3

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Adventure Dreams: A Dragon Tale

Sometimes, as I've stated before, my stories come from dreams. So maybe I should start documenting these on my blog where I can find them... This from a Facebook post back in April...

Had another epic dream that I should probably make into a book... there were these kingdoms at war and one of them decided to forcibly transform people into dragons to decimate the other kingdom. The whole idea was to get a dragon with the mind of a beast so they could control it instead of trying to reason with an actual, intelligent dragon. But sometimes, people retained their minds and personalities, and in rare cases, the spell only worked insofar as they became dragons, but they could transform back and forth at will.

So there were two main characters, both of whom had the body-switching ability. One was this sweet boy who had been kidnapped and forced into the dragon trade who managed to escape and was *trying* to live a normal life but kept getting pulled into adventures and rescues because he didn't want other people to go through what he had.

The second was this girl who had tried to escape when she saw the main boy escaping but because she was behind and he didn't know she was following him, she got caught. As punishment, she was left out in the cold for weeks and eventually lost part of a leg to frostbite, so they gave her a metal prosthetic. Only it had to stand up to holding the weight of a dragon, so this rare, magical metal meant that when she transformed back into a human, she basically had an epic blunt force weapon she could use.

So the girl did eventually escape and became a vigilante, ruthlessly going after anyone who was part of kidnapping people and forcing them into the service of the kingdom. That's how she and the main boy character meet - he gets caught when he defects to the other kingdom, only to find out that they had a defector there who specialized in "training" dragons and was working with the other kingdom to help them get their own army together.

The two main characters disagreed strongly on how to fight back. She was a ruthless assassin and he just wanted to be more or less the dragon Scarlet Pimpernell, slipping in and saving people and then slipping out again. But they both agreed to work together.

I have no idea how they brought down the bad guys because I woke up, but I feel like this was the start of something excellent...

Monday, May 21, 2018

A Story a Long Time in the Making

Last night, I had a pretty serious bout of insomnia. If you've never had it, then let me explain how mine goes: my brain won't quiet down for any appreciable amount of time, and I can't relax enough to get to sleep.

Amid all the worrying about finances, chores, the general to-do list... for some reason, I was also thinking about just how long I've been working on this series and how glad I am that I'm finally publishing it.

And then I realized: I don't think I've ever actually told the whole story of the journey I've been through to get this thing published.

So, here we go!

It all started one summer when I was staying with my parents in between college semesters. I was about nineteen and had a good summer job, but it was a lot of data entry and so there was plenty of space for daydreaming while I was at it.

I think that was a good breeding ground for ideas, because one day, out of the blue, the character of Elaine literally just came to me. I grabbed a notebook and drew her up and started to write down some basic information, like the fact that she had magic, the fact that she was a displaced princess... even the magic system was there in that early moment! Except at the time, I had this harebrained idea that all witches wore watches that kept track of how much life force they had left.

Which is kind of morbid, so I trashed it, but let's be real: I could totally have done a play on the tongue twister:

If two witches were watching two watches, which witch would watch which watch?

Anyway, the character of Michael (later to become Michelle) came soon after, and the first book simply flowed out of me after that. My sister can tell you that I would keep her up nights throwing out one idea after the next.

That first book really hasn't changed from that time. All of the pieces were there at the very start, from the magic system to the mental links to the love story... all of it.

The next five books poured out of me so quickly that I barely paused to catch my breath. As soon as I'd finish one, I would immediately start up the next until, before I had even graduated college, I had an entire six-book series laid out before me.

And at the time, I was convinced it was going to be the next It Thing. I started shopping it to publishers and planning for my future as the Next Big Author.

Of course, that didn't actually happen... but I never lost my enthusiasm for the story.

Sadly, real life ended up getting in the way once I graduated college. I had fully intended to publish one book a year now that I was out of college, and I started with Birthright Unknown, which had been in the works since high school, so it was a long time coming. My brand-new husband was so excited, too, because he read my stories and loved them and wanted the world to see them.

But then, adulthood set in, and with it came a whole host of new problems, including a job that ate my life until my whole world was literally work-food-sleep-repeat. My husband got more and more concerned as he watched me atrophy until, finally, he told me that my health and sanity was more important than the bills.

I put in my two weeks' notice the next day.

We struggled to make ends meet for a while. Matt's job fell through. I was only just starting out as a freelancer, and I took any job I could get. It was incredibly stressful; and on top of it all, we were just discovering that we had major infertility issues. It wasn't exactly an environment that lent itself to writing for pleasure.

So at the start of 2015 when we moved to Atlanta for a new job for my husband, I was just barely getting my feet underneath me enough to even look at my old writing projects.

I'm happy to say that those books stood the test of time and that I was still just as excited to publish them, but I'm even happier to say that now that I was older, my writing had improved enough that I was able to look at the rough drafts I had and see how to improve them to the point that I was confident enough to publish them myself.

The first thing I had to do was run with a suggestion from Matt. He said that my main character wasn't interesting enough, and I knew he was right. So I made the change from mild-mannered Michael to sassy, self-deprecating Michelle, and it changed the entire tenor of the story. Nothing in the plot really changed, but the characters felt sharper.

I started to gain steam and confidence and finally sent my book to my sister for her opinion and help with editing, where she helped me shape some of the memories Michelle had hiding in her mental block. (Those discussions also helped to shape a lot of Prisoners and Puppet Strings' flashbacks, by the way.)

Finally, I was ready to publish, and for the first time in several years, I was back on the book-publishing train, and I'm determined to stay on the wagon and publish a book every year, too! Now that I'm more established in my business and now that Matt has a better-paying job, I have time to work on my series every single day, something that wasn't feasible even this time last year!

Of course, in the course of rereading Book Two, I realized that the major changes I made to Michelle's character meant that a huge chunk of the original second book was completely irrelevant. But I also knew that the fifth book had struggled to find a plot and was really more of a space filler before the last book, a character study in which I explored Michelle's mind, powers, and family dynamics.

So, I thought, why not combine the two books?

It worked out perfectly, as you'll see soon in the second book when it comes out this summer. Now, I'm able to put a lot of that character work earlier on in the series and explore some of the dynamics that had to wait too long in the original drafts... and I get to do it all with a newer, more enjoyable main character.

Win-win, right?

Anyway, now we're caught up to the present day, but as I keep going and continue to put out these books, I hope you can appreciate just how much this series means to me. It's literally been years in the making, and it all started with one summer daydream.