Ringing in the Holidays

EOLYN audio cover_final

Eolyn and her companion novel High Maga are just $1 through the end of the week. 

The winter holidays are just around the corner. I’ll be taking a lengthy break, starting around mid-December, so you’ll only see a few more posts from me before the new year starts.

I’m happy and proud to report that I met my personal goal for NanoWrimo this year: The Hunting Grounds is now complete at just under 50k. That means I wrote about 25k this month alone. I’ve spent about a week now recovering from that effort! (Thank goodness for Thanksgiving break.)

I’m not sure about the ultimate fate of this novella. It needs reworking, obviously, and good going-over by my various writing groups and critique partners. But once that’s done, I’m tempted to try the self-publishing route with this shorter work. Given the nature of the story (dark fantasy, paranormal romance), I will probably shoot for a September release. Stay tuned for more updates in 2016.

In other news, a great book sale is happening right now at my publisher’s, Hadley Rille Books. They are celebrating their 10th anniversary by putting all ebook editions on sale for just $1. This includes the Hadley Rille imprints of Eolyn and High MagaTo see a full list of titles, visit the blog of editor Eric T. Reynolds. This is a great opportunity to stock up on your winter reading!

Speaking of winter reading, tune in next week to see my book list for the holidays. I’ve got some great titles lined up, some by friends or friends of friends; one by my hero, Guy Gavriel Kay.

Wishing all of you a great week!


NanoWrimo Day 20: Doing It My Way

I’ve slowed down a little since my last post, adding about 7,000 words to put my total count this month just over 20k.

This is nowhere near where I need to be if I’m serious about finishing 50k by next weekend, but that’s okay. I am really happy with my progress. Usually when the semester is in session, it takes about 12 weeks to get 20,000 new words into a story. Hitting that number in just under 3 weeks seems nothing short of a miracle. More importantly, I am very close to finishing this novel. Or rather, novella, as it looks like The Hunting Grounds will top off at about 45k.

While I don’t anticipate winning the NanoWrimo grand prize this year, I’ve learned some important things by participating.

For one, I’ve seen how quickly I can put out a story if I set aside time for writing every day.

I’ve also learned how quickly I wear myself out if I set aside time for writing every day.

Creativity takes tremendous energy, and to squeeze in these snippets of writing time on top of everything else I have to do as a biology professor has not been easy. Especially now, with us barreling full-throttle toward the end of the semester at Avila. I’ve often said that whoever invented NanoWrimo was not an academic or an educator, as November is hands down the worst time of the year to ask an educator to write every day. Call me back in June, please. Maybe I’ll sign up then.

Another important lesson of NanoWrimo is the double-edged sword of comparing yourself to other people. Of course, I’ve known this for a long time, but NanoWrimo has given me the opportunity to reflect once more on the topic.

On the one hand, being a part of this great race and having the example and encouragement of other writers can serve as a true inspiration. But there are pitfalls in becoming discouraged if your own word counts start to fall behind those of your buddies. There’s also the constant temptation of putting down words for the sake of putting down words, and therefore spewing out a lot of junk just to reach that magic number every day.

NanoWrimo has convinced me more than ever that this is not the kind of writing that brings out the best of my personal craft. Sometimes my words are ready to flow rapidly onto the page, but sometimes my mind needs to mull and process. To dream, so to speak, rather than just work work work. I have to respect that and give myself permission to fall behind relative to others, to let go of the arbitrary goal that compelled me to sign up for this event in the first place.

My most important lesson from NanoWrimo? Well, I may change my mind a couple months down the road, but for the moment, I’d say it’s this: I love writing novellas!

If I finish The Hunting Grounds by next weekend, which I’m pretty confident I will, then I will have punched out a respectable story in just under seven months. This boggles my mind, especially since each installment of The Silver Web took almost 3 years to complete.

I’m so excited about novellas that I’m ready to try another one when I finish this project. I have an idea that’s been brewing in my mind for a while, set in a different time and place, that I think will be very amenable to this format. More on that when the time comes…

That’s this week’s update from the front lines of NanoWrimo. There’s some exciting news coming near the end of November, including Hadley Rille Book’s annual birthday sale. Please stop by again next week to find out more!

Nanowrimo Day 10

I’m clipping along this month at just under 13,000 words so far. Not quite the pace I need in order to reach 50k by the end of the month, but well within the range of my personal goals.

I already wrote a lengthy reflection about Nanowrimo over on Heroines of Fantasy this week, so I won’t bother you with the same discourse here. But the take-home point bears repeating: What I’ve enjoy most about the experience is the opportunity to focus exclusively on my story.

I’d almost forgotten what this feels like, to have every spare moment dedicated to crafting a novel. I haven’t indulged in this luxury since the writing of Eolyn, mostly because publishing brings with it a host of other responsibilities that don’t necessarily involve, well, writing.

But this month, Nano has given me an excuse to think about nothing else but my novel, and I’m very grateful for that.

I’m going to leave it at that for now, because I have a word count to meet today. Characters and situations are crying out for my attention. But I’d love to hear from other Nanowrimo folks out there, if you have a spare moment. How’s your month going? What do you enjoy about the experience? Share your thoughts, and then, write on!

Nanowrimo Day 3

12189518_10208020853463679_9071689240996734579_nFor the first time ever, I’ve thrown my hat in the ring for Nanowrimo. I’ve never quite seen Nano as the right match for my writing style, but this year, it just so happens I have a project that might be amenable to the challenge.

I’ve set my personal goal at half the official number. I think 25K would be enough to finish out my current WIP, a paranormal romance called The Hunting Grounds. What’s it about, you ask? Well, here’s the pitch:

Mystery descends on Helen’s world when she loses three days of her life. What should be memories of a forest retreat have been replaced by disturbing hallucinations. As Helen struggles to discern fantasy from reality, a striking man of insatiable passions appears and offers his guidance – in exchange for a price.  

Anxious to make sense of her dreams, Helen follows this stranger down a path of shadows. Her realities weave into one: a world of flesh and blood inextricably intertwined with a realm of dangerous spirits. As sensual dreams merge into waking nightmares, Helen begins to suspect the man who seduces her and the predator that stalks her are one and the same.

Hah! Did that give you chills? I hope so. If not, that means I need to work on it some more.

This has been a really fun story to write, and a very different sort of adventure from Eolyn and her companion novels. It’d be wonderful to be done or nearly done by the end of this month. But even if I make significant progress, I’ll be happy.

Most of all, I’m hoping Nano will give me the opportunity to connect with more writers. There are several write-ins scheduled for the Kansas City area. I’ll attend my first one tomorrow.

Of course, I could be writing right now, but as luck would have it, the year I finally decided to do Nano is also the year the Royals finally won the World Series. So I’m watching the victory parade from the comfort of my living room. It’s so amazing to see downtown Kansas City awash with blue. I’d say I wish I was there, but I’ve never been into big crowds. So I’m fine where I am, seeing Union Station and the World War I Memorial from a bird’s eye view.

These are good days to be in this town. Everyone is in the mood for celebration.

One day at a time

Do you ever go through periods when you feel like every decision you’ve ever made was somehow wrong?

It’s the cruelest, most insidious sort of self-punishment we can put ourselves through: comparing our lives against the image we once imagined for our future, and beating ourselves up because a handful of pieces are simply not there.

Sometimes those pieces are missing because of chance. Sometimes they never fell into place because, whether we admit it to ourselves or not, we are better off without them. Sometimes they’ve been snatched away by the actions and decisions of others, or by other circumstances beyond our control.

In all cases, when pieces that are important to us turn up missing in our lives, it is not due to any lack of effort on our part. All of us do our best with the gifts given to us, especially when we are fighting for something, or someone, we love. But even when we’ve done everything possible to keep a dream alive, sometimes the dream simply falters and crumbles, and all we are left with is emptiness.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, we blame ourselves. We look in the mirror and say, It’s your fault. Yours alone. You were inadequate, unaware, incapable. Unable to recognize what needed to be done, to respond in a way that might have secured what was so important to you. 

We feel undeserving of the grace of the universe. Or worse, we begin to suspect that the universe is conspiring against us.

I’m not new to these storms; they have come and gone all my life, and over time, I’ve developed strategies for weathering them.

Weathering a storm, unfortunately, is not the same thing as avoiding the pain. When the loss is real, there’s no way to avoid pain, because pain is the emotion that defines the depth of our love and passion. But I’ve found ways to stay afloat when relentless tides of pain are generated by harsh disappointments in life.

What do I cling to? A conscientious awareness of the blessings I do have. The company of friends and family. The distraction of work and hobbies. The escape of my stories. The healing power of dance. The whisper of trees on a cloudy day. The messages in my dreams.

None of this – none of it – deadens the pain of that one crucially important piece of my world that has been lost to me. But all of it keeps me afloat, and helps me get up to face each new dawn, despite the tears that I continue to shed.

One day at a time, I tell myself.

One day at a time.