Monday, 31 December 2018

Weekly Update: December 23 to 29

Weekly word count: 569

It's been a challenging week.  A reminder that no matter how much I plan and prepare, sometimes life will have other ideas.  It wasn't a particularly productive week but then I took a look at my annual word count from 2018 and I felt a lot better.

2018 word count: 290 997

That's pretty darn good.  Almost half again what I normally write in a year.  And considering I took the month of July off for writing, that's even more impressive.  Now, not everything was sustainable but I've now got a much better idea of what works for me and what doesn't.

Out of that 290k, I wrote a 120k novel, 80k on a second novel and a 16k short story.  That's pretty cool and I'm hoping to carry the momentum forward into 2019.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Hidden Diamond - A.M. Griffin and A World of Gods, Magic and Danger

There are lots of authors and books out there, so many that it can be hard for readers to find the books that they'll love to read.  So I want to share the gems hidden among the chaos.  Each month I'll feature a new Hidden Diamond author.  If you want to know more, I can make sure you discover the diamond you've been searching for.

I first met this month's Hidden Diamond at Romancing the Capital when we shared a panel on urban fantasy.  A.M. Griffin struck me as a funny, witty lady and her description of her Babylonia Jones series had me ordering the first book that very night.  I love strong female characters who stand up for themselves and find their place in the world and after reading The Undercity Chronicles, I can confidently place Babylonia among my favourite heroines.

But there's more to A.M. Griffin than just one urban fantasy series.  She also has Sci-Fi romance, contemporary romance and paranormal romance under her A.M. Griffin pen name.  Her tagline is Love That's Out Of This World, and she lives up to her hype: whether it's post-alien invasion civilization or a secret underworld of vampires, werewolves and fairy tale creatures, every story comes with love, passion and excitement.

Today she's sharing her thoughts on creating fantastic worlds and her answers to the Hidden Diamond author questionnaire.  So if you'd like to know what the craziest thing she's ever done to research a book is or her opinion on cavemen vs. astronauts, keep on reading!

Making The Fantastic Into The Everyday

For those who don’t know me my name is A.M. Griffin and I write paranormal, science

fiction, urban fantasy and dabble in contemporary romance. I also write monster erotica under my alter ego B.A. Thruster.

I enjoy writing in those genres because those characters and worlds are limitless. For my sci-fi series (Loving Dangerously), I had to build a completely different society with alien norms and acceptable practices then plop humans into it. Under normal circumstances any human would’ve had a hard time adjusting to an alien culture, but the humans in this series witnessed the destruction of Earth, death of family and friends and were sold to the highest bidders.

Yeah, imagine having all that thrown on you.

Those characters have some mighty big chips on their shoulders and I loved writing every minute of it. The hardest part about writing the Loving Dangerously series was that it was pretty hard convincing my characters that they loved the hero/heroine. Usually they just wanted to kill them and move on to the next alien. LOL!

I didn’t have to create such elaborate worlds for my paranormal (Dark Wolf Enterprises and When A Vamp Falls) and urban fantasy (The Undercity Chronicles of Babylonia Jones) series. Both of those series take place on good old Earth, present day, but what I find most intriguing is that in those series was there’s a thriving paranormal world hiding in plain sight. Humans go about their days obliviously unaware of wolf-shifters and corporate embezzling and a half-human, half-goddess running a PI agency in Detroit.

I love writing because I love reading. Growing up as an avid reader I often found myself immersed in in books and often times imagining and continuing the story long after I’ve put a book down. I’m often asked why I write the stories that I write and what’s the motivation behind them and one answer is consistent. I write the stories that I want to read, which I do, often! I’ve read Dangerously Forever about five times and I’m on my second round of reading On These Pages. I really do hope that readers enjoy my books as much as I do!

- A.M. Griffin

An Author Interview with A.M. Griffin

What is the craziest thing you've done to research a book? 

I think actually typing some of my searches in Google is dangerous enough. If the government ever decides to pull my search history I would have A LOT of explaining to do.

What is your writing process?  

I’m a pantser. I write whatever is on my mind and just let the story flow. For some stories where I have very strong characters I do find that about half-way through I have to plot out the end chapters to help get the story back on track. I’m not saying that works all the time, but it does help to curtail the character from going rogue some of the time.

What is your favourite thing to do to relax? 

I love reading. Whenever I have a particularly hard day at work I find that curling up with a good book does wonders for my soul and peace of mine.

Who is your favourite fictional crush? 

Ash from the Dark Hunters series by Sherilyn Kenyon. I would do so many wicked things for that Atlantean God.

And in the spirit of the great Joss Whedon debate, who would win: astronauts or cavemen? 

Cavemen. Cavemen adapt. It’s scientifically proven (hello present day humans). Astronauts, while having smarts, really would be hindered if technology was taken away. Honestly, I don’t think anyone walking Earth today could outsmart a caveman when it came to survival.

Thank you, A.M., for being one of my Hidden Diamonds!  And for those who want their very own copies of A.M. Griffin's books or who'd like to follow her on social media, you can find her at the following links:

Come back and discover my next Hidden Diamond on January 31st!  Or have a look at last month's Hidden Diamond, Jenn Burke.

Or you can join the Hidden Diamond mailing list and ensure that the perfect gems for you are sent right to your mailbox.

Previous post: Alpha vs Alpha, a look at when two strong-willed characters fall in love

Or check out my monthly Heroine Fix to see other amazing and interesting female characters from pop culture.

Monday, 24 December 2018

Weekly Update: December 16-22

Weekly word count: 3 056

It was a quiet week this week as I prepare for the family events around Christmas.  I'm feeling kind of run down and overwhelmed and so I gave myself permission to take things easy.

I'm starting up the research for Until Proven Guilty, the second Special Investigations book.  Which means I'm playing around with close up magic again.  Which is awesome.  I won't be starting to write it for another few months, but I love researching interesting things.

I don't know how much I'll be able to write next week so I'm taking the "any progress is good progress" attitude.  Once the kids are back at school, I can look at doing more work.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Alpha vs Alpha

I like alpha characters, by which I mean I like characters who are risk-takers, protectors, and are a little broody.  I like characters who don't hesitate to say what they mean and who also don't hesitate to throw themselves into the path of danger.  To be clear, being an alpha doesn't give a character the right to be a jerk and I've got no patience for domineering characters who are mean, dismissive and disrespectful.

I know alphas aren't everyone's cup of tea.  Some people prefer beta heroes and heroines, defined by their kindness, consideration and support of others.  And I like those as well, but there's something about a character who skirts the edge of darkness that I find appealing.  Maybe it's because I've had my own challenges with depression and I've had to find the energy to keep fighting.  Or maybe it's because I've felt like the outsider and needed to find my own path.  Or maybe I just enjoy reading about bad-asses who kick butt and take names.

But one thing I find frustrating is when those alpha characters cross lines and there's no character arc about consequences for those actions.  A few weeks ago, I mentioned on Twitter that I was frustrated with a series that I really enjoy reading, in part because both the hero and heroine tend to be alphas and the author generally does a good job of showing the challenges of two alphas learning to live with each other.  But as I was reading one of the books, I noticed that the compromises tended to be one-sided with one character acquiescing to the other and the other taking a "take what I say or leave it" approach.

That didn't sit well with me.  And not just because it was the heroine who was the one compromising.  Part of what I love about stories about alpha characters is that character learning that they can't stand alone.  That letting other people in is a risk, but it's a risk that is worth it because spending their lives alone and miserable isn't actually a sign of strength.  

If a character only sees their romantic partner as a liability, someone to rescue and be worried about, then that's not really kind of character arc that I want to read.  Even if the character makes the same decision to share their lives because they no longer want to be miserable and alone, if they're not compromising in other aspects of their lives then the happily ever after doesn't read true because I wonder how the partner will feel long term.  Even if the character is devoted to making sure that their partner is happy and has everything they want, I wonder how many fights they'll end up having because of the fundamental lack of respect.

I'd like to see a story where two alphas are getting together and there would be the initial "my way or the high way" arguments but then the character realizes the fundamental problem with treating a romantic partner as if their thoughts, opinions and reactions are unimportant.  Even if they are convinced that they are completely in the right, they realize that dismissing their partner will create a fundamentally flawed and unhealthy relationship.  And then that alpha character takes the time and effort to truly open themselves up to an equal partnership.

Previous post: Heroine Fix: Seizing the Day with Georgia Byrd from Last Holiday.

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Monday, 17 December 2018

Weekly Update: December 9-15

Weekly word count: 4206

Monday and Tuesday were dedicated to being a parent instead of writing.  But I'm pleased with the progress made on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, especially considering that I have an hour less of writing time each day compared to my schedule during Nanowrimo.

I'm hoping that I can make some more good progress next week before the holidays hit.  Once the kids are home, the word counts are going to go down.  But on the plus side, I'm always itching to hit the keyboard by the time they head back to school.

I'm in a much better headspace than I was at this time last year, which I'm grateful for.  Even though there are still plenty of challenges and obstacles, I feel more ready to face them than I did in December of 2017.  

I'd really love to take another five or seven days dedicated to writing Division rather than having to split my attention between my day job, my family responsibilities, and my writing career.  But there are no plans for another writers' retreat and realistically, I need the income from my day job right now.  But it doesn't stop me from wishing and keeping my fingers crossed that 2019 might hold the change that will allow me to move to being a full time writer.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Heroine Fix: Last Holiday with Georgia Byrd

I'm addicted to strong and intriguing characters.  Heroine Fix is a monthly feature examining female characters that I admire and who influence my own writing.  Warning: this post will contain spoilers.

This month's Heroine Fix is actually more about me than my writing.  Last Holiday is my favourite holiday film and it's all because of Queen Latifah's portrayal of Georgia Byrd.  It's a great character film about a woman who is initially trapped in her life.  Every choice is decided by fear.  She loves to cook and dreams of opening a restaurant, but instead is sticking with her dead-end job selling cookware in a department store.  She has a crush on her co-worker, played by LL Cool J, but is scared to ask him out in case he doesn't feel the same way about her.  She cooks beautiful, delicious meals but doesn't eat them, instead taking pictures and putting them in her "Possibilities" book.  Her life is defined by waiting and hiding in the background, not living.

Then she learns that she has a fatal disease and only has weeks to live.  As expected, she makes some big changes but what I like about this film is that she doesn't immediately throw everything out overnight.  It takes her time to get used to the idea of only having a limited amount of time left and to get used to the idea of acting on what she wants instead of reacting from fear.  It becomes a beautiful unfolding of spirit and self-confidence.  When she decides to book the trip she's always wanted to take, she automatically books it coach and then only upgrades to first class partway through the flight.  The same with her hotel, at first she's booked in a standard room and then upgrades to the Presidental Suite.

I think part of what appeals is that the idea of a consequence-free life is tempting.  Telling off an obnoxious boss or spending thousands of dollars on a luxury vacation or eating a dozen different gourmet dishes in a single meal would be wonderful... if we didn't have deal with the results thereof.  Maybe it strikes a chord with me because I'm a cautious soul at heart and there have been a lot of times that I've told myself "no" on something I want because the consequences outweigh the pleasures of the moment.  But it's so tempting to forget the future and just enjoy the moment.

Some of what Georgia does is predictable.  She withdraws all of her savings, she buys a fancy new couture wardrobe, and she goes base jumping.  She enjoys fancy meals and spa treatments and blunt talk.  

But some of what she does is much more interesting.  She encourages her crappy boss's mistress to stand up to him and reclaim her own life.  She calls out a senator for ditching coming to her church and refuses to cut him any social slack, telling him that he disappointed the people who voted for him.  And she cooks with a celebrity chef, one of her idols, becoming his friend.

She's not selfishly dedicated to her own pleasure.  Even though she would have every right in the world to focus solely on herself, she shows her true heart by helping others to become better versions of themselves and break out of their own self-locked cages of fear.  The story emphasizes this with the counterpoint character, Miss Gunther, the bitter floor valet who snoops through Georgia's things in an effort to expose her.  Miss Gunther tries to make people smaller than they are while Georgia makes them more.

Another reason that I love this movie is the romantic plot.  LL Cool J's character, Sean, loves Georgia long before her transformation into her genuine self.  He's not attracted to her new bold self, he's the one who saw who she really was even when she didn't.  And I'll admit that it's pretty awesome to me to see a plus size romantic lead whose weight is never raised as an issue.  I decided to do the same for my most recent heroine, Martha, where I only mention her size a few times in the book and her hot hero finds her irresistible.

One part of the movie that always sticks with me is Georgia's speech to herself on New Year's Eve: "You have been very lucky.  Maybe we didn't get everything we want, but....  Next time, we'll do things different.  We will laugh more, we'll love more, we'll see the world.  We just won't be so afraid."  And "I wasted too much of my life being quiet."

I say it to myself when I need to remind myself that we aren't guaranteed a "next time" in life.  Refusing an opportunity to laugh and love out of fear isn't being cautious or prudent.  It's robbing ourselves of an opportunity to enjoy our lives.  

So when I'm faced with a situation where the little voice in my head is saying "But what if I look like an idiot?" then I remind myself of Georgia and that confidence is what separates the timid fools from the admired brave.  And that no one ever achieved their dreams by being quiet.  So whether it's dancing until my socks melt, or talking to a stranger or pitching my latest book, I channel my own inner Georgia and seize the day.

(Keep on reading for more information on next month's Heroine Fix and a special offer on my own books.)

Part of seizing the day is sharing my own work with you.  The first book in my paranormal romantic suspense series, Revelations, is on sale for 99 cents US (1.27 Cdn) on all platforms.

Or you can check out some other posts, like last month's Heroine Fix: Kira Nerys from Deep Space Nine.  Or last week's post on how you can boost your word count.  Or visit my Hidden Diamond page to discover new authors who write paranormal romance, romantic suspense, and strong female characters.  November's feature is a sister ORWAn: Jenn Burke.

Next month, I'll be looking at a heroine who crosses the line between good and bad, playful and dangerous.  The woman who always steals the scene from her caped crusader co-stars: Selena Kyle, Catwoman.  I'll be talking about Batman Returns and The Dark Knight Rises, and maybe even the Halle Berry movie.  Join me on January 10th for your next Heroine Fix.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Weekly Update: December 2-8

Weekly word count: 4258

This week I worked on Third Eye Open and managed to get a first draft finished.  I still need to go through and make sure everything flows smoothly, and do a search and destroy on words that I overuse.  Then I can get it edited and get my cover and all of that.  

Next week, I'll go back to working on Division.  I'm excited to get it finished.

I'm feeling a little worn out with getting things organized for the family holidays but that isn't unexpected.  I've got a week or two to recuperate before the big family events.  I won't be getting much writing done once that happens.

I'm also going to have to accept that I'll probably have lower word counts for the next month or two because I'll be putting in extra hours at my day job.  But that's okay (or so I keep telling myself).  The words will come, even if it takes a little longer.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Writing More: Not As Impossible As It Seems

Last weekend, ORWA's monthly workshop was a panel of prolific authors sharing their secrets.  Two of them, Eve Langlais and Mandy Rosko have over 300 published titles between them.  Of the other two, Lucy Farago has written 6 books in the last 3 years, and Carey Decevito has written 10 books in the last 5 years.

There was some good advice about how to increase your word counts, with the best piece of advice being to just get started writing.  Don't worry if it's crap.  Don't get hung up on the amount of time or the number of words.  Just sit your butt down in front of a keyboard and start writing.  Keeping doing that and the word totals will continue to rise and eventually, you'll have a book.  Whether plotter or pantser, New York Times Bestseller or new author, independing or traditionally published, we all have to go through the same process of actually sitting down to write.

Ask a dozen authors how to write more and you'll get dozens of different answers.  Sometimes the answers will work for you and sometimes they won't.  If a technique doesn't work, it can be discouraging but the truth is that writing is a skill and like any skill, not everyone learns that skill the same way.

So my first piece of advice is to be gentle with yourself.  There will always be someone who writes more or faster but the only person that you should be in competition with his your past self.  If you want to do more, then aim to do more than you did before.  And if you fail, remember that it is a setback, not a judgment.  And when you do succeed, take the time to appreciate your accomplishments.

The next piece of advice is to experiment.  Try different things, different locations and different times of day.  Try a strict daily writing schedule or writing blitzes.  Keep track of what you write and it may surprise you to find what's most effective.  I've always been a night person but I was surprised to discover that I write best in the late morning and early afternoon.  I do best with writing for an hour or two, then a half hour to an hour break, and then back into it.  I can push myself to write daily but I do better long term if I give myself the weekends off (or at least, the weekend writing different projects).

And the last piece of advice is to remember that writing is a creative skill, and all creativity can be affected by what's going on in your life.  If you're stressed, sick, or overwhelmed, it will change what works for you.  Just because a technique worked in the past doesn't mean it will always work in the future, so you will always be adjusting.  Which circles back to my first point, be gentle with yourself.  

And get yourself in front of a keyboard and write.

Previous post: Hidden Diamond: Paranormal Romance author Jenn Burke and End of Year Lists and her series, The Gryphon King.

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Monday, 3 December 2018

Weekly Update: November 25 to December 1

Weekly word count: 3770

This week I got hit hard by life.  Several big personal things happened.  I'm okay and my family is okay.  We've been dealing with a difficult situation for the last few months and while we've tried to be cooperative and helpful, the other side has not and now we're going to have to stop being nice and start protecting ourselves and engaging professional help.  It's discouraging, but I am stubborn and the people opposing us have severely misunderstood my level of resolve.

I also spent some time helping a friend with her Victim Impact Statement.  Her partner was killed in a hit and run and going over the impact on herself and her children was heart-wrenching.  I'm pleased with the statement, which lays bare the damage that has been done to her family, hopefully in a way that will bring some justice and closure.

Next week, I"m going to concentrate on finishing up Third Eye Open so that it can go for editing and then I can release all three short stories in their final form both individually and as a group.

I've been talking to the folks at Soul Mate Publishing about changing the title of Deadly Potential and it's been a little intimidating to watch the latest scandal over similar titles unfold.  The title I'd like to use is being used by other authors but our books are all very different.  

I'm hoping that next week goes better and maybe life will surprise me by being better than I'm expecting.