Archive for September, 2018



I have some big news that I’ve been waiting to share: I’ve sold a new book!

This one is going to be kind of different because it’s an Audible Original. That means I’m writing it specifically to be an audiobook. After the exclusivity period runs out, it may get published as a print/e-book, but for about a year it will only be an audiobook.

It’s an entirely new story not related to any of my existing series, but it is a light contemporary fantasy, so I suspect Enchanted, Inc. fans will like it. It’s the story of a tourist who gets way more than she bargained for, including a rather magical adventure, when she stops to help a little old lady.

When I’ve mentioned having something I need to finish this year before I can work on anything else, this is what I’ve been referring to. The deal’s been in the works for most of the year, but it’s taken a while to finalize. I’m wrapping up editing on the ninth Enchanted, Inc. book today and getting that off to the copyeditor, and then I’ll be drafting this new one.

I’ve only written a proposal so far, and I’m excited to finally really delve into this story.

I don’t know exactly when it will come out, probably sometime next year. Don’t worry, I’ll keep everyone posted.

And now, I have three more chapters to edit.


Change and Renewal

I’ve had a weird bout of restlessness and dissatisfaction lately, where I find myself feeling like I need to change something. I’ve thought about moving someplace else entirely, looked at possible jobs, pondered going in different directions with some things in my life.

It only occurred to me yesterday what’s going on: my army brat background is acting up again. I grew up moving every three or so years. Every few years, everything got uprooted — new home in an entirely new place, new school, new friends, new church, new activities. It continued to some extent even after my dad retired because although we settled in one place, I finished high school four years later and moved to a different city for college, then moved to yet another city when I finished college. From birth to about the age of 22, my life was totally changed every one to four years. I was used to constant renewal.

I’ve had a tendency to uproot my life every few years since then. Before I bought my house, I changed apartments every 2-3 years. I stayed in my first job nearly five years, but it was about three years per job after that. I’ve lasted longer in churches, but have generally found myself drifting from one to another every 5 years or so. I even seem to do a bit of a friend turnover every few years, gravitating from one group of people to another.

But now I’ve lived in the same house for 20 years. I’ve had the same “job” of working for myself for 16 years. I’ve been going to the same church for about 12 years. I’ve been hanging out with the same group of people for about that long. No wonder I’m feeling restless. The problem is that I don’t necessarily want to change these things. I would like a different house, but that’s a complicated process that will require a lot of work and saving more money. I really don’t want a different job. I like my church and the community I have there. I like my friends. How can I give myself that sense of renewal and change without actually changing things?

My mom deals with the itch to move by rearranging furniture. My house is small enough that there aren’t many functional options for rearranging furniture (though I did swap my bedroom and my office after a few years in this house, which kind of worked like a move). I don’t really want to redecorate entirely if I’m going to possibly be moving within a couple of years, but I think maybe doing the big decluttering project I have planned may feel like a move. I’ve been working on mostly the same series for a while, so maybe writing something entirely new might help. Maybe I could travel more, and that would give me the sense of relocating. I could start a new activity that would bring me around new people, letting me make new friends without losing the old ones.

Just identifying the feeling and its source helps. Now I realize that I’m not unhappy. I just have that itch to change something. I need some renewal.


Spooky Fall Reads

We got our first real cold front of the season, and it feels like fall. Hooray! It will be a good day for snuggling up with a good book. Okay, it’s a book I’ve written, but I think it’s pretty good.

Since it’s nearly October, I need to pick my Classic Horror read for the year. Or, more accurately, Classic Spooky, since I’m a real wimp and probably couldn’t deal with real horror. A couple of years ago, I read Frankenstein. Last year it was Dracula. Now what? I guess I could do Fall of the House of Usher. Or House of the Seven Gables (since I’ve actually visited and toured the house that inspired it). Any other suggestions of the sort of classic book that everyone should have read that’s spooky and atmospheric?

Though, I must say that reading these kinds of books on a tablet loses some of the atmosphere. They seem to belong in a slightly musty old book that you read by lamplight on a cool, windy evening while bundled under a blanket. Tapping to turn the page seems all wrong. Maybe I should check the library to get a real book instead of just going to Project Gutenberg to get the books for this project.

And then I need weather cool enough for that kind of reading experience before Halloween.

Harbingers of Fall

After taking yesterday as a rest/catch-up day and after running all the errands this morning, I’m about to dive into a final proofreading pass, and then next week I’ll be ready to start something new that I need to refresh myself on (news about the new thing to come soon).

Meanwhile, I totally forgot to mention that my publisher put the e-book version of Don’t Hex with Texas on sale for $1.99, probably through the rest of this week. I’m sure most people who might be reading this already have all the books, but in case you need the e-book version, here’s your chance to get it as a bargain.

I succumbed to two fall things at the grocery store this morning: the first Honeycrisp apples are out (my favorite harbinger of fall), and Pioneer has a pumpkin spice pancake mix (it’s the spices with no pumpkin). I don’t get excited about pumpkin spice lattes because I don’t like coffee, but I like spiced baked goods. I think I’m going to make a spiced peach compote to top the pancakes for this weekend, hopefully to celebrate being done with the book (other than dealing with copyedits, a final proofing pass, and then dealing with all the publishing stuff, getting cover art done, etc.).

And now lunch, then work!

If I Were a Villain …

I’m treating this as a semi-weekend day to recover from essentially working all weekend. I got mostly better from last week’s cold, but then the weather got in the way. We got record amounts of rain, more than 7 inches in one night, and it was more than the hotel conference center roof could handle. A few leaks let water pool in the ceiling tiles until the ceiling tiles couldn’t handle it, and you can imagine the fun stuff that exploded into the air along with bits of ceiling tile and all that water that had been pooling in there. I wasn’t there when it happened, but I’m fairly sure the entire place was contaminated the rest of the weekend. I’d be okay at home, then couldn’t stop coughing while I was at the convention. I managed to get through my panels then beat a hasty retreat for home.

I’d thought that the panel on evil overlords would be about writing villains, but instead it was more of an improv exercise in which we were essentially creating evil overlords on the spot, answering questions about our lairs, wardrobe, minions, etc. It was a ton of fun. I’ve never been a villain-centric writer, so it was an interesting exercise in putting myself in that viewpoint, but since the idea was to be funny with this, I got to create a villain who was a spoof of the Maleficent type. My chosen lair was a castle with a moat. I went with formal wear in basic black for public appearances (unless I was pretending to be a captive princess to lure heroes to my lair), but for casual wear just hanging around the castle, I preferred yoga pants and sweatshirts. I may get a couple of fun stories out of that exercise because I kind of liked the character I created. To some extent, I suspect she just put on the evil overlord front to keep the villagers away from the castle so she could get some peace and quiet.

I’m also tempted to create the costume for this character and wear it next year.

Meanwhile, I went to a couple of Marian Call’s concerts and bought some more CDs. She’s an Alaska-based singer/songwriter who does geeky stuff along with more mainstream topics. I saw her in concert a few years ago and she was the music guest of honor this weekend. And from a conversation after her Saturday concert we both came away with writing prompts for something that needs to be addressed.

Now I need to catch up on life and all the stuff that didn’t get done while I was sick or busy with the convention. My kitchen is a disaster, I have to do laundry, and there’s a lot of admin work I need to tackle. Then tomorrow I start the proofreading pass on my book.

FenCon Fun

I sort of have a voice this morning. I haven’t tried saying more than a few words, but they don’t come out too raspy. I have a feeling this is going to be a very low-key FenCon for me. I only have one panel late this afternoon, so I should be able to get through it, and then I can rest until the next morning before I have to talk again.

Today’s panel at 5 is on “So You Want to Be an Evil Overlord.” We’ll be offering suggestions for writing (or being) an effective villain. I will probably rant against poor use of subterfuge, overly complicated plots, and how unattractive a victim complex is for a villain.

I have an autograph session at 10:30 Saturday morning — and don’t worry, I’ll use hand sanitizer before I touch your book.

Then two panels:
One at noon on what’s next in the Harry Potter universe, talking about the upcoming Fantastic Beasts movie and what other periods in history they could explore.
And one at 2 on creating costumes based on books when there are no movies/TV shows or other illustrations to draw upon.

And then I’ll get to rest. What I do for the rest of the day will depend on how much voice I have and how I feel.

Sunday afternoon at 3 I’m on a panel about whether or not to self publish.

Fortunately, I gave up my reading slot to help with a scheduling issue because I don’t think I could read out loud for that long without a coughing fit.

I should probably add that on the unlikely chance you’re coming to this convention just to see me, check Twitter first because if I’m really not feeling well or if I realize that doing this is beyond me this weekend, I’ll announce if I’m having to cancel. I don’t feel that bad, but I’m also tiring very easily.

In other news, I finished my round of revisions. The book will rest this weekend, and then I’ll reread it next week in a proofreading pass, and then off to the copyeditor.

My Vow of Silence

I discovered yesterday evening when I started teaching my kindergarten choir that I only thought my voice was back. I hadn’t talked much since I live alone and work at home, but I had tried a few words to see how I was doing. It turns out that after more than a few words, the voice fizzles out. The bad news is, I have a convention this weekend, when I’m supposed to be speaking on panels. I have about a day and a half to get my voice back. So, it’s vocal rest today (not that different from most days for me, I suppose) and lots of fluids, and maybe by my first panel tomorrow afternoon I’ll be able to say more than a few words at a time.

My next hurdle will be Sunday morning. It’s my church’s anniversary celebration, so we’ve got lots of music, and that means lots of singing. I went to choir rehearsal last night so I could at least listen and learn details of what we’re doing, but making sounds didn’t work. Will my singing voice come back before Sunday morning? We shall see!

But I’m going back to a more or less “normal” work schedule today. I can do my work without talking, so I hope to finish revisions. I’ve got a little more than a week to get this book to the copyeditor, and the long-range forecast is showing next weekend to be potentially glorious, so I would like to have the rewriting done today, maybe tomorrow morning, and then do a round of proofreading next week, then have a free weekend. And then it will probably be time to dive into the next project.

Meanwhile, I’m still in the early developmental phases of something else. Last night as I drifted off to sleep, I found myself pondering how magic will work in this world. That led to imagining maps. And history. Sometimes, I wish I could just make up imaginary places without worrying about details like plots and characters.

Dickens, Drama, and Ideas

I’ve now reached the point in the recovery from my cold in which I want to get back to normal activity but am not quite there yet and am getting frustrated by what I don’t feel up to doing. It seems like it’s been forever but, really, this is just the fifth day from the very beginning of symptoms, and I didn’t start feeling really bad until late in that first day. I’m perfectly on target — maybe even ahead of schedule — for this sort of thing.

I’ve watched enough movies and miniseries based on Dickens novels that I think I could write a decent paper analyzing themes and parallels among the major works. I’ve also developed a turning point theory about the production values in British costume dramas. There’s a definite change in the mid-1990s from a more “stagey” approach, in which most scenes are interiors with sets that look like they could have been used on a stage, to a more natural, cinematic style, like we see today, where the sets make you wonder if they are sets or if they used locations, and there are a lot more exterior location scenes. I have a feeling the big 1995 Pride and Prejudice adaptation had something to do with that. Now I wonder if anything’s been written about the topic.

But I finally maxed out on watching costume dramas yesterday, and when I couldn’t seem to stay awake enough to do anything but couldn’t fall asleep when I tried to nap, I watched Tangled for a complete change of pace. Watching a movie I just about have memorized while lying in bed in the dark almost seemed to count as a nap. And it also sort of counted as “work” because it was when I saw this movie in the theater that I had the first spark of an idea for the book I’m researching now. The actual story has very little to do with Tangled, but there was something in it that clicked with an idea fragment that had been floating around in my head, and that made me realize what I could do with that idea fragment. Now, years later, I’m finally ready to dig into that idea and start writing it.

I didn’t write it back when I came up with the idea because I was in the process of drafting Rebel Mechanics. I did have a moment or two of Shiny New Idea Syndrome, when I was tempted to drop the current project and start playing with this new idea, but I wrote down what I knew at the time (which wasn’t much, it turned out) and went back to work on what I was doing. In the years since then, I’ve had time to do research and develop this idea further, so it’s going to be a much better book now than it might have been then. Getting sick just seems to have accelerated the development process, since I haven’t been able to think clearly enough to do revisions or work on anything else. Not thinking clearly is great for brainstorming and free-associating, when you’re not yet to the point of having to come up with structure or plot logic.

But I think today I might dive back into revisions. I’m feeling better, just tiring easily, and I actually want to work, which is a positive sign. Or possibly means I’m dying.


Weird Meta-Fiction

I’m still not back to 100 percent, but I have reached the point of illness at which I’m annoyed about not feeling up to doing things and the state of the house is bothering me (when I’m really sick, I’m too sick to care). Thinking is also kind of a challenge. I’m okay at absorbing information, but creating things takes more energy than I really have. Which means research reading!

I realized yesterday that I was reading an entire book to research a part of a character’s backstory that happens when he’s too young to remember it. So that means it’s probably going to be entirely offstage, unless he runs into someone who was there who can tell him about it. But I feel like having credible details might help at some point.

And I just thought of how it might apply to the present in the story, so maybe I’m not just over-researching minor details.

Anyway, I’ve also done some fiction reading, including an odd little book called The Murdstone Trilogy by Mal Peet. It’s basically an author’s wildest dream and biggest nightmare.

An award-winning young adult novelist is facing a career crisis when his latest book flops and his agent informs him that she can’t sell another one of his books about troubled teenage boys. But she could sell an epic fantasy. That what editors are demanding, and she might have hinted to one that he’s working on that sort of book. The problem is, he’s never even read that sort of thing. He checks a bunch of books out of the library, and he hates them. He’s sure he could do better, but he can’t think of any ideas. After an afternoon of drowning his woes in the pub, he pauses in his stagger home by the local standing stones, where he falls asleep and dreams a fantasy novel, complete with narrative. When he still remembers it upon waking, he hurries to write it down. It’s like transcribing rather than writing, it’s so easy. But then he reaches the end of the part he dreamed and has no idea what happens next. That’s when he’s approached by a strange little man — the narrator of the story — who offers to give him the rest of the story if he’ll help in a quest to retrieve an amulet of great power that’s been lost in this world. It seems easy enough, but then he needs a sequel …

As an author, I feel somewhat judged/targeted by this book, though I have the reverse situation, where what I want to write is fantasy and I’ve had editors ask if I can do a non-fantasy contemporary YA, but I don’t really like reading that and I have zero ideas. No mysterious teens have appeared in my life to dictate their stories to me, though.

I would say that this is an interesting read, but it’s not necessarily fun. The main character is a real jerk, so I have mixed feelings about what’s happening to him. It goes to some pretty dark places. I’m not sure what the author is trying to say about fantasy. I got this one in the goody bag at either the Nebula weekend or the World Fantasy convention, so I suppose it’s classified as fantasy, but it also gets in a lot of snark about fantasy. I can spot some of the things he’s mocking, and I don’t entirely disagree, but at the same time, I feel a bit judged about my reading taste.

The thing that I find interesting is the concept that a fantasy novel might be the real history of events in some other place — and you may or may not be able to trust the person telling the story. We’re used to thinking of the primary viewpoint characters as the protagonists, the good guys, but is that just because we’re seeing things from their perspective? As a writer, I’ve had a few books that felt like I was transcribing dictation. I didn’t feel like I had to make many decisions or figure out what to do next. I just typed the words that were flowing. Were those being fed to me by some other dimension?

I suppose you could say I recommend this if you’re intrigued by meta fiction and have read enough fantasy to get the satire. I’m not sure how this would play to anyone else. I’m glad I read it, but I don’t think I’ll be keeping my copy.

Sick Day

I came down with a cold-like illness this weekend, so it was pretty much a couple of days of lying on the sofa or on the bed, watching British costume dramas. The worst of the cold symptoms are over. My voice is sort of back and my throat doesn’t hurt anymore, but I’m a little feverish and tired, so I’m taking a sick day. I’ve got a convention this weekend, so I really need to be back to 100 percent by Saturday.

All those costume dramas were actually somewhat work-related because they feed into my worldbuilding. I’ve been getting imagery. But I might be getting a little burned out on Dickens. I need something a little lighter for a change.

I’m wishing I had the adapter that would let the Roku work on my bedroom TV (the HDMI port is in a bad spot where the stick won’t fit). I finally connected the old DVD player to that TV, so I can watch anything I have on DVD (but not Blu-Ray). As cheap as Blu-Ray players are, I may get a “smart” one that connects to Wi-Fi, and that way I can stream stuff in the bedroom. Then again, I very seldom watch TV from bed. Only when I’m sick. So I’m not sure that this is a major necessity. It’s the kind of thing I wouldn’t even use most of the time, but when I want it, I really wish I had it.

I’m hoping this is my one big cold for the year and I’m getting it out of the way early. I’ve already had my flu shot, and we’ll hope that will prevent anything else nasty. I just hate being sick when it’s warm and sunny. That feels all wrong. It’s far better to be sick when it’s cold and rainy. Then it feels good to drink tea and snuggle under a blanket while watching British costume dramas.