The Colors of Fall

I’m sitting in my writing cave staring out the window at all of the beautiful colors that are beginning to appear on the trees.  Ironically my thoughts aren’t on the oranges, yellows and greens that are appearing early this year because of the dryness of the summer but rather, on the fact that I miss being able to run outside and jump in a pile of leaves without people looking at me as if I’m crazy.

Fall is by far my favorite time of year, but I can’t help but remember how much more fun it used to be.  As kids, we’d go out and rake up big piles of leaves and jump in them.  Now I just groan at the thought of having to rake.  I used to spend hours and days planning the perfect Halloween costume.  This year, I have to wait until the last minute to buy candy for trick-or-treaters so that I don’t eat it all before ‘show time’ (like I did last year, and the year before, and the year before, and, well, you get the picture).

Fall was so much simpler as a child.  There was fun to be had around every corner.  I could take the time to stop and look at the beauty around me as Mother Nature prepares her forests for their winter’s nap.  So this fall (and the winter too) I’m challenging myself to take 5 minutes a day to actually enjoy the beautiful world around me.  I’ll simply enjoy the scenery or revisit an old childhood pass time that is perfect for this time of year.  I’m going to take the time to reconnect with my favorite time of year.  Will you take the time to enjoy life as well?

Release Days: The Nerves and the Excitement

Release day is quite possibly the most nerve wracking moment in any author’s career.  No matter how many times you go through it, the nerves are a buzzing as your novel starts to go live across the world.  As an author you’ve spent hours, days, months, possibly even years finalizing and tweaking your story, pouring your soul into the words on the page.  When it’s finally published and out of your hands, you’re sharing part of yourself with the world at large and waiting on their reaction and reception is one of the most gruelling moments of your life.  Sitting there, staring at your computer screen, waiting to see the initial sale numbers, watching the online rankings is almost a must.  Waiting for reviews to start coming in is even worse.  Not only are people buying your ‘baby’ but they’re telling you what they think of your work.

But release day count down is important on the reader’s side of the scale as well.  I may be an author, but I’m also an avid reader.  I stalk my favorite authors and know when their next releases are all coming out.  I pre-order many of them, or show up at my local bookstore on release day to be one of the first to get my hands on a physical copy.  I curse delays in release (even though I know that authors have lives too, and sometimes the unavoidable happens) and when I finally get my hands on that long awaited new novel, I binge read it that very same day.

Release days are exhilarating from both sides of the scale.  As an author I’m lucky to experience it all, but in the back of my mind, I always wonder, do people look at my work the same way that I do with the authors I enjoy?  What do you think?

All of the best ones are crazy

Mad Hatter: “Have I gone mad?”
Alice: “I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”
―  Alice in Wonderland: Based on the motion picture directed by Tim Burton

This conversation between Alice & the Mad Hatter is comical yet also quite inspirational.  When you think about it, Alice is basically telling the Hatter to just be himself, and the best version of himself that he can be.  Ignore stereotypes and just be you.

“Crazy” is one of those words that historically has a bad undertone.  People use it to signify things that they don’t understand and people whose actions they don’t agree with.  But for many of us, it also symbolizes things that are fun or slightly outside the box.

We each have our own definition of what’s crazy.  Some people may say that reading a novel in a single afternoon is crazy.  Many of us would say that’s a normal occurrence with a good book.  I think that running a marathon is crazy (though admirable) yet at the moment my sister is training to do just that.  Heck, it wasn’t that long ago that flying across the country or speeding down a highway would have been considered crazy yet now it’s an everyday occurrence that we take for granted.

When you stop and think about it, crazy isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  We all have our own brand of crazy.  None of us can go through life without having at least a day or two when our ‘crazy’ shines through.  So what do I say to this?  Go with it!  Have fun!  Act a little crazy at times and get out of your box.  Life is so much more fun when you live it.

How do you sort your libraries?

main-e-readerI finally cleared myself some time in my schedule to read a book I’ve been dying to dive into. You know the one; that next in series, have to have it, bought it release day a year ago and somehow still haven’t dug into it yet. Yeah, that one. We’ve all got some of them and eventually we all make the time to read them (and if you’re like me, it’s because the book after it is about to be released, lol).

But back to my point, I finally found the time to read this book. I was so excited, but then my difficulties started. I couldn’t find it anywhere. It wasn’t on any of my book shelves. I had the rest of the series in paperback so I assumed that this novel would follow suit. I searched and searched. Checked under the bed, looked everywhere to no avail. I was starting to panic. I called my sister and my mom, the only 2 people allowed to borrow books from my sanctuary. Nope. I hadn’t loaned it to either. Where oh where could I have put it? Where to search next? My Kindle? After searching through my entire ereader and the Kindle Cloud just in case it didn’t download properly I determined that it wasn’t there. Searching my Kobo library had similar results. I even checked Google Play Books on the off chance that I decided to put it on my phone. Finally, after 3 hours of searching I found my purchase! It was on iBooks. Apparently the book was released the same week that I was all excited about my new iPad. Or maybe it was on sale on that platform. Who knows why I chose to buy one book there.

So, after hours of searching (when I could have read half the novel) I finally found it and had to take a break from my ‘non-reading’ to calm down enough to be able to read this novel (that was fantastic by the way). The moral of this story is that with all of these technological advances I need to find a better way of ‘shelving’ my books. So how do you sort your libraries? Do you have different lists? Minimize the formats in which you purchase books? A special shelving code? Are you simply one of those readers who doesn’t have a huge TBR pile? Let me know!

Find your own fit

Diet and exerciseMany of us who spend our days behind our computers find it hard to get the recommended amount of daily activity.  When 8+ hours a day are spent staring at a screen, finding time to go for a walk or to the gym isn’t always easy.  Between lack of time and a wicked kink in the neck after a long day of editing, the last thing I want to do is run around and jump up and down.

If you’re anything like me then getting a personal trainer or joining a running group may be right up your alley.  Having something scheduled means you’re much more likely to do it.  But it can also lead to its own set of issues and interesting stories.

At one time I had a personal trainer who insisted that we meet at a busy gym during their peak time.  Not only was it next to impossible to get any gym equipment to work with, but it was also impossible to get my trainer’s attention.  He spent the entire time trying to show off his muscles for the other women at the gym.  That was the longest 6 weeks of my life.

Another time I had a trainer who repeatedly told me I was running too fast and too long, not eating enough junk food, and to simply stop trying.  Now, it may sound like I was overextending myself, and if you think 30 seconds of jogging is too much then maybe he was right, but I would have been in worse shape than when I started if I’d listened to him.  And frankly, when you’re supposed to be training to run distances, you’ve got to run, right?

What I’ve learned from all of this is simple:  FIND YOUR OWN FIT.  Fitness isn’t a number on a scale or a measurement around your waist. It’s not your BMI or your body fat percentage.  Fitness is a state of health and a state of mind.  Do what works for you.  Do what makes you feel more energetic.  And above all else, do what you enjoy so that it becomes part of your lifestyle rather than something you do when you think about it.

How’s your penmanship?

986158f8d2785a33bff769951ab9efc7Recently, I received a letter in the mail from an old friend.  After I got over the shock of a real letter in my mail box, rather than simply the standard bills and flyers, I tore open the envelope to find out what the latest news was and the shock continued.

The letter was hand written on gorgeous stationary.  Unfortunately, I could only read about every other word.  After deciphering the bulk of the letter I found myself thinking about the state of my friend’s handwriting, and then my own.  What I discovered had me both laughing and cringing.

When you think about it, when was the last time you wrote something other than your grocery list? In my case, even that is digital now. I type everything, from letters to quick texts to shopping lists.  When I have a question for my sister, I don’t leave her a note, I send her a message.  It’s become so easy to do all of our writing and communication digitally that many of us have forgotten the art of penmanship.

Picture the calligraphy of the Middle Ages.  Everything was so beautifully put to paper.  Even 10 years ago we put effort into writing to each other, creating tangible records of our interactions and the events in our lives.  Personally, I love the look of a well written letter on parchment.

I tried to create one after reading my friend’s letter and discovered that my cursive was just as bad, if not worse than his.  And my printing, well, it wasn’t much better.  I cite lack of practice for the disastrous outcome of my attempt.  But it did remind me of how much I love the feel of pen sliding across high quality paper.  Legible cursive writing is a gorgeous thing that we should all remember to use before it goes out of style forever.

Book Boyfriends ~ The Bad Boy or The Sweetheart

Last night, I spent a considerable amount of time trying to decide which kind of book boyfriend I like best: the bad boy or the sweetheart. I’m totally going to call this research, because I’m pretty sure I should have been working on my edits for my upcoming release, Deadly Crush.  But if it was research, then I don’t need to feel bad about the wasted time. LOL.

So here’s what I came up with. I’m going to start with the sweetheart. Sam from Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater was one of my favorite book boyfriends. He was sweet, tentative, caring. He put his needs/wants second to Grace, and I fell for him.

Who wouldn’t want a guy like this? Someone who is always there when you need him. The sweetie is always dependable. He’s comforting to have around, and he always says the right thing. He blushes and is a little awkward, which is completely adorable.

But the thing with the sweetie is that the attraction usually isn’t a right away kind of thing for me. In the first book Sam was just kind of there, but as the series progressed, I just loved him.

But the bad boy … For this one, I took a look at Rhyn from Katie’s Hellion by Lizzy Ford. Rhyn is perfectly flawed. When he first appeared, he drew me in right away, although I wouldn’t say that I loved him in the first meeting, but he was … intriguing. He grabbed my attention and held it until the end.

The bad boy is unpredictable, and he pulls out a slew of emotions from me. There were times that I wanted to punch Rhyn and others were he made my heartbeat quicken.

The thing I love most about the bad boy is watching him melt. He spends so much time fighting the world around him, and then to see him softening for those few seconds is just heart flutteringly wonderful.

But that’s not the only thing I love about the bad boy. He is typically protective, and he makes this protective and slightly (or overly) possessive attitude, known, where the sweetie usually only thinks it and rarely acts on it.

So in the end, I still couldn’t decide which one I like better. The sweetie, who is dependable and shows his emotions, or the bad boy that makes me want to scream at him and then melt into him. They both have pros and cons, although I think I’m edging to the bad boy side. I guess it just depends on the book.

So what about you guys? Who’s your favorite book boyfriend? Are you a sucker for the bad boys? Let me know.

Happy Reading!

The Perfect Title

When I first started with The Soul’s Mark Series, the title was the easiest thing for me. I just knew what the first book would be called, and I went with it. It didn’t vary. I didn’t over think it. The title just felt … right. But as I embark on new journeys with my writing, I’ve realized that this isn’t always the case.

A few weeks ago, I talked about how important the cover of your book is in the post: Your Book Cover is a Powerful Marketing Piece. Well, your title is just as important. After your awesome cover draws in your reader, the next thing they will see is your title.

There are many things about writing that can be, well … frustrating. Editing, outlining, the list could go on and on. It may surprise you, but finding that perfect title can be one of those frustrating things.

Think about this for a second … What if New Moon by Stephenie Meyer was called Bella is Depressed? Or if Fall of Night by Rachel Caine was called Claire Moves and Meets More Vampires?

Now these are quick and kind of silly examples, but the question is, would you still pick up the books?

So what does your title have to be? Well, for me, I want my title to describe the book but not give too much away. I want it to be catchy and spark a readers interest. This can be quite a task. A crappy title could potentially change a readers perception of your story. It could make them pass it up, put it back on the shelf, and not even bother to read the blurb.

Now perhaps the perfect title will just come to you. Maybe you had it before you even started writing the first draft, or maybe you’re like me and you think it to death. For my current work in progress, I think I came up with about 50 options. It took a while, but when I settled on what I thought was the perfect one, I went out to my friends and colleagues and found out that not a single one of them liked it.

Of course, this put me back at the drawing board. I went over the storyline, basically pulling it apart and in the end, I came up with my top five titles. Once I had the list I went back out to my friends and colleagues. I provided them all with a blurb and a list of titles and thankfully I received a much better response.

So think about it. Run your options by a friend. Get feedback. Consider what others might think about it before you make that final decision. You may find out it’s an awesome title, or you may find that your target audience is not sure what to think about it.

Description: How much is too much?

Recently, I received an email from an aspiring author seeking guidance on descriptions. Her question to me was how much is too much? So I’m going to try to answer that question today.

One of the first things you learn when you start to write is show, don’t tell. I think the easiest way to explain this rule is by comparing a movie to a book. In a movie, we are told what to think. We see it on the screen, there’s really no room to dream up what the hunky hero looks like, or the house, or the school.

But in a book … well, that’s an entirely different world. As a writer, you get to create everything. You get to set the location, dream up the characters, explore their emotions … really the sky is the limit. But, while you are doing it, you need to remember, show, don’t tell.

Readers do not want to be told he was angry, they want to see it. Did he ball his fists into white knuckled rocks? Did his jaw twitch? Did his neck flush red? His cheeks? Little descriptions can make a huge difference in how a reader visualizes the scene.

But … how much is too much? Stephen King says: “Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”

So what does this mean? Well, simply, it means that when you are describing things leave pieces out. For example, maybe you are describing a house. Give us the color of the exterior, describe the entrance. Is there a picket fence? What about the little garden in front? But leave something out, like maybe the color and shape of the roof. Let the reader envision the missing pieces. Let them make the house their own in some way.

As an author, I know how easy it is to get carried away with description, but as an avid reader, I also know how frustrating this can be when it happens. When reading, one of my biggest pet peeves is when an author goes overboard in the description area, and essentially buries the actual story in fluff or gives so much detail that there is no room for my imagination to come up with anything.

The key is, knowing when it’s enough. Use all of your senses, but it’s not necessary to use them all at the same time. Give bits and pieces throughout the scene. Description overload can easily happen when you try to put all the pieces in one paragraph. Start the image, and then continue with it through the scene, dropping little morose as you go. Give your reader enough to spark their own imagination without leaving them in a tunnel, or boring them with so much at once that they lose the story all together.

If you could have any three superpowers, what would they be?

Okay, it’s time to come clean. At some point in your life you’ve wondered what it would be like to have superpowers. Maybe it was during your last paranormal read, or it could have been when you were watching Superman. Not to worry. It happens. There’s just something so fascinating about crazy powers that captures the imagination.

While writing The Soul’s Mark Series, I spent many hours thinking about superpowers, and I have to admit, it was fun imagining how life would be if I developed my own set of superpowers. It took awhile, but I’ve finally narrowed it down to my top three.

Superhuman Speed
Picture never being late again. I’m always running late so being super fast would definitely be on my list, although I bet it wouldn’t help. I’d probably procrastinate and still end up late.

With the power of mind control, basically, you could do anything you wanted. You could persuade your teachers to give you straight A’s, get your dream job, get out of that speeding ticket.  The possibilities are endless. It would be awesome. I’m pretty sure I would use it to get my husband to do all the cooking and cleaning.

Super Healing
What if you had the power to heal? You could get rid of all those little injuries like paper cuts, because, well, they hurt! (I can’t even begin to count how many I got while writing these books.) But you could also help ease the pain of others. Picture being able to cure cancer or Alzheimer’s. Now that would be amazing.

What would you guys choose?