Monday, September 14, 2015

A huge sale and a giveaway, including an amazon gift card, a Barnes & Noble gift card, and special Moonlit swag!

First, the sale:

For two days ONLY - September 16th and 17th - all three books in the Moonlit Trilogy will be available for Kindle for $0.99 each!! That's the whole trilogy for less than $3. Then books 1 and 2 (Moonlit and Windswept) will spend a few more days at deeply discounted prices, and Wildwood will stay at $0.99 for at least another week. (Get them here: The listings on my author page my not reflect the actual price, but fear not! Each book's kindle listing will show the reduced price!

Want to know why? There are a few film industry insiders interested in taking Tanzy's story to film.
I would love to see what these books "look" like through someone else's eyes. I would do a happy dance to end all happy dances. And as the "film treatment" for Moonlit is being reviewed, we need two things: chatter and sales.

That's where you come in.

I need help spreading the word. I like to give stuff away. It's a beautiful combination.

Prizes up for grabs:
* $50 Amazon Gift Card
* $50 Barnes and Noble Gift Card
* The Moonlit Trilogy in signed paperbacks with a swag pack
* One signed canvas print of a Moonlit Trilogy cover of your choice.
* A page from the original, handwritten first draft of Moonlit, signed and framed. (If this does make it to film, that would be pretty cool to have!)

How you can enter: Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter for a chance to win these prizes! This giveaway begins 9/16/15 and ends 9/23/15. Winners will be notified by 9/25, and have 72 hours to claim their prize before new winners are drawn. No purchase necessary for entry!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you for all of your support over the past three years. This has been an incredible ride!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Editing Wildwood - aka - Nanowrimo in reverse

For those of you who have never participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month,) the idea is to write a complete first draft of a novel, or at least 50K words of one, in one month. It is HARD, and, to date, I've never succeeded.

So what does this have to do with Wildwood, book #3 in the Moonlit Trilogy? Well, the draft I submitted to my publisher was 156,000 words, and I knew in my soul that it was the best story I'd ever written. It's my favorite piece of the trilogy. My editor agreed: do not, under any circumstance, touch the plot, she said. And then she said: But I need you to cut 57,000 words. Minimum. Really, it'd be better if you could find 60,000 words to cut.

Sixty. Thousand. Words.

Or, NaNoWriMo in reverse.

When I first sat down to tackle this edit, I thought: I can absolutely do this. No problem. I'm wordy and I know it. I can clean this up in a single pass. So I painstakingly evaluated every word, tightened up sentences, cut an expository paragraph or lines three and four of a description here and there. And at the end of the first pass, I had cut 6,000 words. I had also taken two weeks to do it.

Editing a 75,000 word story like Moonlit and Windswept took every brain cell I had. Once I realized I was essentially editing them BOTH size-wise, I buckled down, glared at my screen, and launched into pass #2.

I started seeing some serious word-loving habits. Like descriptions. Boy-howdy do I love to word-draw. Three paragraphs of artsy, flowery page-decor became a sentence or two bold, direct strokes.

I'm a transition-junkie. I quit cold turkey, cutting their heads off whenever I saw them peek up at the bottom of a paragraph. CHOP CHOP CHOP. And boom, without the transition present, the paragraphs flowed BETTER, because if the writing is tight and the motion is streamline, a transition becomes a speed bump.

Full-body feels. This probably accounted for 25,000 words. And I don't mean the way a "feels" moment pulls at a reader's heart strings. I mean the way every single action pulled at every single possible part of my main character (although hearts, centers, stomachs, guts, middles, and mouths seem to be favorites of mine). I shouldn't tell a reader how my character internally responds to a positive or negative moment because the reader should experience the moment without me telling them how to do it.

And, last and certainly most painful for me, expository paragraphs. I love to sink into a scene and roll around, like a dog on a carpet, feet in the air, tongue out, just *feeling* it. Inviting a reader into a character's head space for a good long time. Like a page. Maybe two. I caught myself skimming these words and sections I was sure I loved, and why? Because sure they were pretty but they didn't affect the story in any way so I didn't need to change them so why look at them.

Wait, what?

If a sentence does not affect the plot or the character, if the plot and the character are exactly the same on the other side of the sentence as they were before it, then what was the point of the sentence? The idea of a story is to keep the action and characters in motion. You know what dogs do after they roll all over the floor? They take a nap.

And there was my other 35,000 words.

Finally, one month, 60,000 cut words later, edits for Wildwood were done. It was the hardest thing I've ever done, and taught me some invaluable lessons about the way I write, and how to make it better.

Wildwood now has a release date - September 22nd, 2015, and one truly amazing cover.

I can't wait to see what y'all think of the conclusion to Tanzy's story, and my new, lean, action-packed story-telling skills.

It's been one helluva ride.

Thank you for coming along.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Hither & Thither: submissions open for a free, new fantasy writing contest!

Fantasy writing contest "Hither and Thither" is open for submissions at Inkitt!

Inkitt is a free writing platform that aims to help writers achieve their fullest potential. On July 13th the site launched a new Fantasy writing contest: Hither and Thither. Submit your best original fantasy fiction stories of any length. As always, there is no entry fee. Old and previously published stories are also eligible.

Help us escape reality with your most fantastic fantasy stories yet! Submit accounts of beasts, pixie dust, and witches, or enchant us with spells and poisons. We want to read tales that are so lifelike they make us forget we aren't surrounded by kingdoms and dragons.

Contest guidelines: Authors will retain all rights to any and all works submitted in the contest. Submissions close on August 10th, but voting will continue for an additional week. Original stories of any length are accepted. Entries must be posted on the Inkitt contest page to be considered eligible. The top 10% based on reader votes get the chance to be picked by the Inkitt staff for 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize. All entrants will have the chance to show their work to a rapidly growing community of authors and readers hungry for high-quality fiction.

Submit your stories here: You can also read more fantasy stories for inspiration in Inkitt's fantasy section.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Augusta Literary Festival - AKA my first attempt to travel with two kids

I'd like to start this post with a little diddy about how my experience at the Augusta Literary Festival concluded. The festival was drawing to a close. My husband was holding our 4 month old baby with one hand and helping me pack away odds and ends with the other. My 4 year old daughter was helping herself to leftover candy. She looked up at me and said: "Momma, why does one of your earrings have a hole in it and the other one doesn't?" I figured one of the earrings - dangly loopy silvery things - had become hooked on itself some kind of way. I reached up to feel for both. I was wearing two completely different earrings, and had been All. Day. Long. And that, in a nutshell, is what it's like to tour with small children in tow. Hey, at least they were both silver. (Can you spot the difference in the picture at the end of this post?)

A more extended version of events:

We arrived in Augusta on Thursday night. I checked in with the front desk at the hotel and then shuttled my sleeping children from the car to the room using half-ninja-half-mama-grizzly tactics to scare would-be noise away. My four year old slept between my husband and I on a king size bed, some how turning perpendicular, where-upon she began making snow-angels in her sleep.

On Friday I was scheduled to attend a round panel discussion with the other four finalist for the Frank Yerby Award for Fiction. We asked Siri how to get there. Dear Siri sent us to the wrong place five times, after which I spied the little yellow house I saw on the festival website, told my husband to stop the car in the middle of the road, leaped out, and ran to the front door. There was a piece of paper on the door. That's never a good thing, never: congratulations, you found the right place! And this was no exception. The panel had been moved to a different building. I had the name but no map and not the foggiest idea of how to get from here to there.

Then an angel appeared: a woman in her car called out to me (I don't know if I was radiating desperation or just looked really, utterly lost). She was part of the award panel and told me where the discussion had been moved to. I thanked my lucky stars I'd opted to wear boots instead of heels, and ran across a field and three parking lots, arriving at the panel sweaty, but on time.

The panel discussion was freaking amazing. There's really no other way to describe it. We clicked and bantered and dove in and swam around. We challenged each other. We supported each other. I would do it once a week if I could. This is where I first met fellow writers Amanda Kyle Williams, C. Michael Forsyth, and Kimberly Teter. Meeting these people made the entire trip worth it, and the festival hadn't started yet.

Amanda Kyle Williams won the Yerby Award - and she absolutely deserved it. She is witty and razor-sharp. Her book - Don't Talk to Strangers - is book three in her Keye Street series. I'm reading book #1 - The Stranger You Seek - right now, (because I'm one of those OCD types that has to read series books in order even if they're all stand-alone) and it has the most chilling opening I have ever read. Hands down. No contest. Put it on your to-read list right now. Right. Now.

Me, I'm happy to be a finalist, to have earned some bling for the Moonlit cover, to be counted among heavy-hitting company, and to own all three of Amanda's books. Signed. Boom.

While I was at the award ceremony, my husband took our girls to Outback to attempt dinner single-parent style. He was brave, and he went down fighting, but that ship sank hard, fast, and loud. He wound up tossing dinner in to-go boxes and wrangling our tiny circus back to the car as fast as possible. Once I came back, I helped him get both girls asleep, and then ate my dinner perched on the hotel toilet so I wouldn't wake our baby, who bursts to waking at the slightest sound. Proof positive mashed potatoes are the bees knees - no matter what temperature they are or where you are when you eat them. Bonus: they're super quiet to chew.

At last - Saturday - the actual Literary Festival portion of events. The venue was beautiful, the organization spot-on, and the support was fantastic. Writers, if you have a chance to attend this festival, I highly recommend it. The 2015 group of authors was one of the most interesting, engaging, benevolent group of people I've been a part of. Aren't we a snazzy group?

And then came time to pack up, and my daughter pointed out my earrings, and I was so freaking tired, and still kind of giddy that Amanda Kyle Williams stopped by my table and snagged a piece of chocolate and laughed at my one-liner, that I shrugged and kept packing. At least I have big hair. Earrings are more like a glimmer, an after thought, a peekaboo behind a curtain of brownish. Like I said, at least they were both silver.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

What's in a name? More than I thought.

I'm working on a new manuscript - a new adult, chick-lit novel with a paranormal twist (of course!) I have a basic outline of the plot. A fun, spunky secondary character is taking solid shape. The love interest's voice is clear and strong. There's just one tiny, itty bitty piece of the puzzle that I'm missing: the main character. More specifically: her name.

Right now I'm calling her Natalie. She's already been Hannah, but that name was so wrong I couldn't bare to keep typing it. Neither name belongs to her. They're just place holders until I finally figure her out. She's polar opposite from strong, visceral, impulsive Tanzy, or at least the Tanzy she becomes by story's end.

I haven't bonded with my new cast of characters to the extent of the bond I formed with Tanzy, Jayce, Vanessa, Asher, and Lucas. And how could I? I first met Tanzy back in 2009 - and back then her name was Holly. Then Rynn. And then a Google search for name meanings unearthed the perfect fit: Tansy (I swapped the S for a Z) which is a Greek name, and means "immortality". Once I figured out her name, the rest of her became more obvious. And as she developed, the plot became richer and deeper.

Here we are, six years later, and I'm roughly five rounds of edits away from saying a final farewell to these characters who have become utterly authentic in my head, and who helped me fulfill a dream.

For now, it feels like my new main character and I are sitting across from each other on a first date. She's only letting me see the surface. Her smile is practiced. Her manners are on point. I haven't figured out what's really going to brass her off yet. And until I know what she cares about - what she deeply, wholly, irrationally defends - this new story is going to be just as skin-deep.

I think it's going to take the entire first draft to figure her out. I hope I do. Without her, the story will have no heart, no organ beating meaning and purpose and cohesiveness to the other parts. So who are you, not-Natalie, not-Hannah? One thing's for sure. You are not a cheap date.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A look back at the year I swore I'd use to put writing first.

This past January, I declared to myself (and quite possibly to my Facebook network) that this was the year - 2014 - that I would put my writing first! I would join every writing group/club/association I could find. I would draft during normal-people hours and not just at 3am. I would commit to the craft: learn, read, study. I would act like a REAL writer.

So in January, I joined several writing groups. I left my full-time job as a social media specialist. I used the time my daughter was at pre-school to crank out word counts. I took a research trip to Cumberland Island with a few friends to experience the setting of book #3, and we camped back country (i.e. gather and boil water). I was serious about this writer thing. SERIOUS.

Before too long, my drafting sessions became more of a stare-down with my blank computer screen and the taunting, blinking cursor. I started avoiding my office. Then the second floor of my house all together. I tried writing by hand in the woods in the dead of winter, sitting on fallen trees to resurrect the magic and compulsion of that feeling of i-have-to-write-right-now-or-i-will-throw-a-fit. Instead my butt went numb. And my hands.

I started skimming over emails from those groups I dutifully joined. Then I started screening them by their titles and the few words visible on gmail's preview. And once Gmail started separating emails by categories, i stopped checking them all together.

In February, I revamped my swag and headed to IndieGirl Con in Charleston, SC. I met some amazing people - inspiring, kick-you-in-the-pants people, which made the drive and the predictably unpredictable southern coastal weather worth the trip. I had my first video interview, and I also suffered a royal case of food poisoning. Or at least I *thought* it was food poisoning.

In March I found out I was pregnant... two months pregnant. Turns out baby #2 had gone back country camping with me, and had definitely been on board during the now suspect food poisoning. Suddenly, finishing book #3 in the Moonlit trilogy had an expedited deadline. And all those groups and trips and conferences... needless to say, that part of writerdom took a back seat to just sitting down and writing, which became harder week to week as my energy tanked and i found myself spending a lot more time in the kitchen. Plus, pregnancy brain is no joke. I once went to Target and then called my husband to ask him what I'd gone to get. I still have no clue what I intended to buy.

In May, I bought a horse. (I what...? I WHAT???) I know, I know. Even though I work in the horse world, I haven't owned a horse in ten years. This January, when I finished tuning up a client's horse, my three year old daughter asked me: "Mommy, will we ever have a horse we don't have to give back?" See, now you want to go buy a horse too, right? I found an ex-race horse that needed lots of food and time off, so we were the perfect pair. And he made me feel like me again. Suddenly I wasn't avoiding my laptop anymore. I'd mentally chew on a major plot point as I curried the daily clumps of mud from his coppery coat. Then it hit me: my brain works the same way whether I'm trying to find a certain object in my house or write a story; if I'm trying too hard, i don't stand a chance.

By mid-summer, I was asleep around 8pm most nights, which was eating up my best writing times. So I had to learn to draft smarter. I learned to write in 15-30 min snatches of free time while tuning out Dora the Explorer instead of needing to make a mug of tea and settle in for a several hour stretch. I used my beta-readers earlier on, cringing as I sent them the third draft instead of the thirtieth. And I finally, finally learned to outline (which with five POVs, two worlds, a hundred threads to tie in, and pregnancy brain was a MUST.) I also attended UTopYA Con in Nashville, TN, where I reconnected with several of those fantastic people I'd met in Charleston, shook my pregnant booty all over the dance floor, and heard this amazing piece of advice from the keynote speaker: Feeling selfish is better than feeling unfulfilled. It's rock solid advice.

In October, I turned book #3, which my publisher has coined "Wildwood," Eight days later, baby #2, Annabelle Rose, was born. I'm up to my eyeballs in diapers and still waiting to see if this draft will be green-lighted to head into the official editing process. While I wait, I'm sketching out a few new ideas to see which one demands to be written next, and I'm toying with the idea of a kids' book series.

And now here, looking back on the last twelve months, I might just feel like a writer after all. We write because we live, and we write TO live. But there's a balance - a tiny, new human that depends on me, a big, beautiful sun to enjoy, a horse that has a love for having his ears scratched, a Britney Spears dance party with a three year old in a tutu - and there are days or nights when the words come and need to be given attention.

The words, the worlds in my head, they're what make me a writer. I set out this year to commit to my craft, put my writing first, and learn how to be a "real" writer. It didn't happen quite like I thought it would or should, but I think maybe it happened anyway.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Blog Hop: My writing process - take 2

I first took part of this hop about six months ago, but with full blown, third trimester preggo-brain, I completely forgot. When I realized I'd already answered these questions, I nearly declined the opportunity. I read over the answers I gave back in April, and realized that drafting Wildwood - the final book in the Moonlit Trilogy - has changed a lot about my process. So I answered them again, if only to chart my growth, and I enjoyed reflecting on how much I learned while writing book 3.

Thank you, Brittney Joy, author of the Red Rock Ranch series and fellow equestrian, for inviting me to follow her on the hop. I adored the first book in Brittney's series, Lucy's Chance, and can't wait to get my hands on the sequel, which is coming out this fall. With a tagline like this: "Sixteen year old Lucy Rose is spending her first summer away from home and she has two things on her mind: an abandoned, violent horse and a blue eyed cowboy... only neither is hers." How could I resist? We also both have an obvious love for writing a lead female character with grit and a feisty streak. Learn more about Brittney Joy and the Red Rock Ranch series on her blog:

Now for the blog hop writing process questions:

1. What am I currently working on?

I am currently working on "Wildwood," the third and final book in the Moonlit trilogy. At this point, two dimensions are at play, so I'm using a multi-POV approach to braid the sides together. Characters on both sides are gaining different pieces of information - and not all of them are true. The reader will see their mistakes/wrong turns long before they do. Using the multi-POV approach has been the most challenging thing I've done with my writing so far/ It's so important to have a reason for why the next POV is chosen, and to layer the plot lines in a way that is seamless and natural. I'm really excited for readers to experience how this tale concludes. The paths and endings of several aspects/subplots took me completely by surprise

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

The Moonlit trilogy is a very different read in general. The first book (Moonlit) is not a straight-shot plot, but more like a puzzle. Once you reach the final chapters, I think you experience Tanzy's moment of shock with her when she realizes how far she was lead from where she believed she was going. The second book is more like a bullet- it's direct, fast-paced, and action-oriented. The third book goes back to the elements of mystery I used in the first book, but the characters are kept more in the dark than the reader.

Also, two major thematic differences are the use of love/romance as a sub-plot and not the main point of the story. Horses are used as a setting; the main character, Tanzy Hightower, was raised on a farm, and has working knowledge of the equine industry. In books 2 (Windswept) and 3 (Wildwood), the wild/feral aspect of horses is explored, as Tanzy's blood has been replaced with that of an ancient wild stallion. Her environment and the use of horses in it reflects what's happening inside of her.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Sometimes this world seems too sharp at its edges, too mean or cruel, and in the depths on my being I know beyond all reasons there has to be something more. I explore the thoughts of what that more could be through my stories. My mind is quick to leave this reality and scurry down a path of what-ifs. I use horses as a vehicle to take these journeys because they've always possessed a kind of magic for me. They are excellent teachers, and they ground me and make me feel like I'm flying at the same time.

4. How does my writing process work?

My writing process evolved a lot for book 3. I used to tear apart each sentence as I was drafting, and that slowed me way down. I'd get so involved in how to say it I'd forget to just say it and move on. Also, since I used five POVs in book three, I had to use what I call a "short-projection," where I outlined the main purpose of the next 3-4 chapters before writing them. This was my first attempt at any kind of an outline, as I've been a total panster before this manuscript. I wrote the entire first draft before incorporating any edits, and kept a separate word document where I made notes to myself regarding any edits to what I'd already written, large or small. Once I began the second draft, I tackled that list first, and then reviewed the story as a whole, editing as I went. I just sent the second draft to beta readers to make sure the story is solid before I spend a lot of time/energy polishing the actual writing.

Another key part of my writing process is not writing. If I'm not feeling inspired, I don't force it for the most part. Every now and then I can tell it's just me not focusing or seeing a scene clearly, and then I make myself slog through it. But getting outside, especially to the barn, is a critical part of my creative process for bigger-scale plotting. My imagination works much better in the open air.

Time to Tag!

I'm tagging the lovely, one-of-a-kind, force of nature Sarah Ashley Jones, who I had the pleasure of meeting at Indie Girl Con this past February, and thoroughly enjoyed seeing again at UTopYA. She just revealed the cover of her newest book: Rebel Souls. She's crazy busy, so I'm not sure when her post will go up, but her blog is worth checking out regularly, so check back if it's not up yet!

Click here to go directly to Sarah's blog.