Wednesday, September 13, 2017

FREE Kindle eBooks!

Today and tomorrow (Sept 13 & 14, 2017), Amazon is offering Books 1, 2, and 3 of the Aerenden series for FREE. Be sure to swing by and grab a copy! The 4th book is only $2.99, and the 5th and final book in the series is due in the spring. Don't miss out! Get your free kindle copies by following this link

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Contest on Facebook (ends Sept 2)

Now through September 2nd, I'm running a contest on my Facebook page to win a kindle copy of an Ærenden book of your choice. It's an easy peasy entry (share your favorite literary quote), so head on over!

And don't worry if you already own all the books, you can gift the prize to a friend.

Not a fan on Facebook? Here's the link :).

Friday, August 25, 2017

Writing a Book: The Running Approach

Once, a long long time ago, I took up running. I had to lose weight, I'm antisocial(ish), and I love listening to music, so I thought "why not? It's a good fit." I printed (printed! ha! Okay, so now I'm dating myself) out a beginning runners calendar and hit the road.

And I got frustrated. It was hard. Really, super, intensely hard. I tried to do 30 seconds and couldn't. I tried to do 20 seconds. And I couldn't. I tried 15 seconds. That worked, so I stuck with it for a while. People passed me. I hated that. Grandmas passed me. Dads with strollers passed me as I tried not to die on my 15 second stretches (mixed with 2 minutes of walking).

For a time, I got so upset at my perceived failure that I almost gave up. For a time, I did give up. It wasn't for me, clearly. I wasn't any good at it. I wasn't improving fast enough.

But then something beautiful happened. I missed it when I gave it up, so I tried again. I focused on the music in my ears, and my breathing. I ignored the people passing me, and I started watching my own time, instead. 15 seconds turned into 30 seconds. 30 became 40. The next thing I realized, months had passed and I could now run 3 miles. I stopped huffing and puffing. I got faster, better. I enjoyed it. I learned to pass myself.

And then, and then...

I had kids. I was put on limited exercise throughout my pregnancies, and when I got back to running, I huffed and puffed again. I got passed. I couldn't run a mile without stopping.

I felt defeated. I got frustrated. It was hard. And I almost gave up. I hated moving backwards, losing the ground I fought so hard to cover. Nothing helped. Until I focused on one step again, one increment, one minute at a time. I'm not quite where I was pre-pregnancy, but that's not what I want anymore. I'm a different person, with different goals, and I want to run. So, I do.

Why am I mentioning this?

Because when I first started running, I wasn't just a "wanna be" runner. I was also a "wanna be" writer. I had a dozen ideas for books in my head, but I looked at a novel as one giant work that had to be accomplished in one giant leap. I didn't write, because I couldn't see the increments.

Then one day, as I started getting miles under my belt, I realized my writing journey could reflect my running journey. Instead of seeing the whole, finished book as my goal, I saw my characters. I started talking to them, having them tell me their stories. After that, I saw a single scene. I wrote that scene. Another followed it, then a chapter. A single chapter became 10, 10 became 20, and eventually I had a book.

It wasn't done, of course. The first draft is called a "draft" for a reason, but each edit chiseled more detail out of my lump of clay until I had a finished novel. The next book became easier, and the third was easier than the second.

And then, and then...

I had kids. You can probably see where I'm going with this by now. It took me two years to start writing again. For the longest time, I stared at a blinking cursor on a white page and felt certain I could no longer do it. The same longest time I couldn't run.

One foot in front of the other. One word after another. I pushed forward, with new goals, a different mentality, and a new appreciation for getting back into what makes me "me."

Of course, you know I finished my eighth full-length novel this month (the last in the Ærenden series). It's better than I had hoped. And this was my run today.

For reference, this was my run in April, when I decided not to let my setbacks stop me.

My point? I've had several people say to me recently that they have a great idea for a novel, but they could never write one. It's too long. It's too daunting. They don't know what they're doing. For those people, I want you to remember this: None of us knows what we're doing, not really. We learn every day, and we accomplish what we need by looking at the increments. Write 30 seconds. Write one character. Write one sentence. Break it down and build yourself up.

Before you know it, you'll have met your goal. After all, it's only you that you have to pass today.

Monday, August 21, 2017

An Essay on Cal

Every character has a background. Preferences, habits, good and bad stories, idiosyncrasies, and history make them who they are--much like our intricate details knit together to make each one of us a unique person.

Some of those tidbits find their way into a book. Others you may see solely in the character's reactions or behaviors. And some things remain in the dark corners of an author's mind, an intimate detail kept in secret forever. 

I find that with good books, I often finish reading the last page wondering about those backstories, and wishing my favorite authors would share them. Sometimes they do. Most of the time they don't. I'm always willing to share my characters' stories, so if you ever have a burning question, please email and I'll answer if I'm able (no spoilers!). 

One backstory has been on my mind a lot lately. As I finish this series, and I take time to say good-bye to each character, I've been lingering more on Cal. He's always been one of my favorites. He's fun to write, a bit complex, a bit eye roll inducing. And he was never supposed to be more than a strange creature leading Meaghan and Nick through the wilderness. He hijacked my story, tucked it in his back pocket and ran away with it. He became integral. Kind of like how we meet strangers in real life sometimes, and they somehow become our best friends.

I've been learning bits and pieces about Cal as I write. Some of my other characters have been hashed out for a decade. I created everything about them. I knew their likes and dislikes before I ever asked them to speak a word.

Cal has never let me do that. Every time I plan something for him, he laughs and tells me "tough luck." He likes surprises. So do I, which is probably why I like him so much.

One story he shared with me didn't make the books. I wanted to fit it in, but it never quite worked, so I thought I might leave it for discovery here, on my oft-forgotten blog. Funny how multiple jobs and a couple of toddlers will force some things to gather dust... but I digress.

Cal loves the term "lad," which I've always found it a little strange. There's a significant language overlap between Ærenden and the part of Earth where Meaghan grew up (which does have an explanation, but not for here). "Lad" is not one of those overlaps. No one else uses it. Yet, he's quite fond of it. I never could figure out why, but he insisted, so I let him do what he wanted.

Turns out, we can blame his brother James for it. Vivian traveled between Earth and Ærenden a number of times while she still lived. Cal mentions that in the books, but he doesn't mention that she delivered letters back and forth between the brothers. James became fond of the term and teasingly used it to refer to Cal. He, of course, also explained the term "lass" to Cal, but it never quite stuck in Cal's mind in the same way "lad" did. If I recall, he only used it a handful of times, and only to refer to Meaghan. But lad became a term of endearment, a way for him to feel connected to his brother. 

Losing James was one of Cal's greatest heartbreaks. His brother and he were close, best friends, and he cherished the letters he received, however few. He told me once that he wrote back, weekly at first, then monthly. He piled the letters up and waited until his brother's wife came to claim them. She never got them all. He had to burn some for warmth, or abandon some during an attack. But he wrote them, and since the moment James shared the term with him, they always started with "Dear Lad..."

When his brother died, the word became a living memorial in his conversations. 

Cal is a man who has lost so much, yet he still managed to stand tall, to joke, to laugh, and to love, despite everything. He inspires me, and I'm glad he decided to become my friend.