Hello, Dear Darling Mentors

whirlwind

I’m delighted to once again be entering the PW whirlwind. I’m sure you’ve got a thousand bios to read, so I’m just going to jump right to it.

 

 

 

So here’s why I’m ready for this challenge:

rodeo

  • This isn’t my first rodeo. I was a PW ’14 alternate, so I know exactly what’s involved. Massive revisions. More massive revisions. Then a few more. I’m ready. Eager in fact, because…
  • I heart revisions. I’m not just blowing sunshine up your wazoo. I’m a big believer in going where the revisions take you. Sometimes you don’t find your book until three-quarters of the way in. Why waste time fighting to keep things that just don’t work? I re-wrote my entire manuscript during the last PWs. If I had five original words left, I’ll eat something disgusting. The process was akin to a master-class in fiction writing and absolutely priceless. I’ll be grateful to my beloved mentor, Kate Karyus Quinn, until I rattle out my last breath.
  • duh-catI know that I don’t know. Last PWs, I thought I was all ready to take the publishing world by storm, with my big-girl panties on. I honestly — this is mortifying — thought that my mentor would go through my manuscript and make a few line edits, and I’d be off to Big-Five glory. Then poor Kate very gently showed me that I knew jack shit about the publishing world, even less about craft. (Again, I love you Kate). Now, I know a little more about the publishing world and a little more about craft. Enough to know how much more I need to learn.

Which brings me to what kind of mentee I am:

  • hearts twoI heart the learning process. Once I realized how little I knew about craft during my first PWs, I immediately dove into studying method, if only so I didn’t sound like a jackass to all my new, knowledgable friends. To my shock, this pantser found herself enraptured. Since then, I’ve made a habit of studying a new method with each book I write. My main focus for PWs would of course be my manuscript, but if you’re someone who loves to talk Truby, I’ll at least understand what you’re saying!
  • I respect your opinion. If I trusted you with my words, it’s because I did enough research to know you know what you’re doing. So your thoughts and guidance will be received with respect and gratitude! Whatever you have to say, I’m going to listen because you’re giving me your time. I have two kids and a full-time job. I know the value of that gift.
  • pandafriendsIf you’ll have me, I’ll be a friend forever. I’d pretty much shank someone for Kate at this point. Her friendship and guidance (along with the host of fellow writers whom I now talk to daily) have been, hands-down, the biggest treasure to come out of PWs. I’m grateful to Brenda every day for bringing all of them into my life. I’d love to have another relationship like that, but if that’s not exactly your bag, don’t worry, I won’t stalk you or send you cat heads in a basket because…
  • I’m a big girl. All this time I’ve spent learning and revising and interacting with writers on different points along the publication path has helped me develop my voice and refine my interests. I’ve got a stronger sense of myself as a writer, which gives me more confidence when I have to make tough choices.

So what kind of writer am I? Here’s what I’ve found so far:

  • chocolateI likes it dark. Like dark, dark. The kind of chocolate almost too bitter to eat, so you need a glass of wine nearby to wash it down. But…
  • I need some raspberry jam in the middle, or at least some semi-sweet chips. Though my themes are heavy and my endings sometimes grim, I believe in leavening all those shadows with sweetness. A tiny flash of humor. A moment of beauty and grace. Sweet, sweet language.
  • I love pretty words. I’m a lyrical writer, and learning the best place to deploy those skills, and when to get the words the hell out of the way, is a challenge I enjoy every time I sit down at my computer.
  • bagelsI want it all. Thriller. Spec-twist. Literary themes. Yep, I want them all, and I know it can be done. Here are some of the writers I want to be when I grow up, because they figured out how to keep their readers turning pages and still SAY something important.
    • Nova Ren Suma: The Walls Around Us knocked me on my ass. I’m afraid to meet her, because I might embarrass myself with my fawning.
    • Jennifer Mason-Black: I’d give a foot if I’d written The Devil and the Bluebird.
    • Kate Karyus Quinn: Every single word she’s written is genius. Just pick one. I couldn’t pull one out as a favorite to save my life.
    • Mindy McGinnis: Her Not a Drop to Drink cycle is a perfect example of how to use a speculative scenario to explore the human condition. And how to write bad-ass women.pincukitten

So that’s about it, except for the pic my daughter insists I must end this post with. I vetoed all her other choices, so she get this awesome Pincukitten!

This Parenting/Writing Life…#ParentingCreating

Divided HeartSo when I first read Patrick Samphire’s description of a wild morning story session in the car with his kids, under the creative pressure of his life, I said “Yup. That’s pretty much it.” Twenty parts desperation. One part inspiration. All designed to get you through one more day of this parenting/writing life.

Now, if you’re interested enough to read this blog post, I know you don’t need cheerleading or chin-up Charlies. You don’t need me to tell you why writing is worth it. If you have children and you write at the same time, you’ll already have concluded that writing isn’t an option. It’s a necessity. Or you would have given it up long, long ago.

You don’t need advice from me. So what I’m going to offer is…war stories! Misery does love company, after all. So here is a collection of the best in-the-trenches tales of the insane ways my friends and I have made writing and parenting co-exist.

Don’t Nobody Go in the Bathroom for at Least 35-45 Minutes
Potty training. Perhaps the most dreaded of parenting milestones. It was certainly my least favorite activity as a parent, until the day it dawned on me the rich bounty I had before me. No, not fertilizer. It’s TIME. Sweet, precious dedicated time where your kid is confined to one small space for a predictable set of minutes. So while she sat in there whistling and asking to watch Dinosaur Train, I leaned against that wonderful, closed door with my laptop. Once I left her in there for an hour while I finished a scene. I’m not even sorry.

And speaking of locked rooms…

The Panic Room
There are some moments in a writer’s life that require absolute focus. An editor call. An agent call. A call with your friend who’s waiting for their agent call and is about to shove splinters under their nails to relieve the tension. So what’s a writer to do? Why, lock themselves in a room. In a basement or an attic, if you have one. Then completely, totally ignore the children banging on the door. Even when they shove notes under the door. Or just their hands, driven by their animal zombie instincts to interrupt your call.

santahcipsahoySanta Doesn’t Eat Chips-a-Hoy
Now, you’d think as someone with a full time job at night and kids to manage during the day, I’d give up a few hobbies. Nope. I’m a pretty decent baker and I (a) bake way, way too many holiday cookies and (b) do it all from scratch. So two Christmases ago, when I had to get a scene finished or lose my mind, I set my laptop on the counter and wrote in the ten minute increments between cookie batches. And damned if I didn’t finish both the scene AND every batch of cookies without burning a single one. Even the butterscotch lacies came out perfect. I’m still proud of that one.

Schleep, Schmeep
They say sleep goes out the window with a newborn, but it does come back. So you know the value of what you’re losing when you have to go back to next-to-sleepless nights again to finish a novel. I work a FT split shift that gives me 5 hours or less a night, and I still have to snatch writing time by the minute because my son isn’t yet in preschool. The bags under my eyes hold my lids open during the day, so that’s something. One friend of mine, who I hesitate to name lest her children realize her free hours and devour them like cannibals, rises at 3am EVERY DAY so she can write before heading to her full time job. Another boots her husband into the living room so she can stay up writing all night one night a week. She skips a full night of sleep and writes in sprints. I hope she walks to work the next day. I should ask.

Are There Carcinogens in Ikea Poster Paint? 

Sure, desperation tastes like pasta, lightly tossed with butter, salt, and pepper.

Sure, desperation tastes like pasta, lightly tossed with butter, salt, and pepper.

When you hit a deadline — and I’m talking the Taste the Desperation, night-before-caffeine-induced-acid-reflux kind of deadline — that’s when all the parenting rules go straight out the window. Six hours of DinoTrux on Netflix? Why not? A Winx marathon? Sure, sure. No matter how many times I watch that show, I have no f’ing idea what’s going on, but it can’t be that bad, right? And why bother with curating any of the other content to ensure they’re not imbibing racist memes and sterotyped gender roles. Once I let my daughter have the remote and run wild, and when I came back she was watching this odd collection of holiday shows. I walked in on this cartoon from the 30’s where a collection of children from around the world do something to help Santa. The Asian child does Santa’s laundry. The African-American child — wreathed with a Song of the South grin and a piece of watermelon (yes!) — shines his shoes. I can’t remember what the American-Indian child does, but I think it has something to do with tobacco. And the white kid bosses them all around. I didn’t tell my husband about that one, so let’s hope he doesn’t read this post.

But my husband DID find out about the time, when I had to get some pitches ready for a contest the next day, I opened every paint container in the house, set them in front of my son and told him to have a ball. I don’t have time to write a thousand more words, so this picture will have to do. Cute lil’ bugger, isn’t he?:)

But all this untrammeled time in our children’s lives yields GusGusPaint at least some creative fruit. Like the day my daughter spun floss into gold and invented the “Rosie Posie (dogs) Prince and Princess in DinoTrux Land” story cycle. Or the day a friend of mine told her pestering child to write a story of their own, and they did and then moved on to writing comic books. Or the day my daughter’s teacher told me how creative her stories are and I confessed myself as a novelist and the teacher said “Of course. I thought she must have a writer in the house.”

And sometimes these creative spurts yield enhanced communication skills. Like my friend who, to facilitate a major editing session, set her son on the floor with some blocks. He got very creative and made a contraption he called “The Super-Editing Trap.” I’m guessing he wanted to free her. Sorry, Charlie. Chin up. It’s a rah-rah life with a parent as a writer, boys and girls, and you’ll thank us for our benign(?) neglect someday.

Now I hope you’ll check out all the other participants in the hop. There’s a lot of crazy wisdom to be found in those pages. I say ‘crazy’ because the wisdom is earned through the sheer effort of not going bat-shit crazy and running away.

The Jewelry Box – Nathan Anderson’s Bestiary Alphabetum

So lookee what my good friend, fantasy writer K. Kazul Wolf, just posted on her Tumblr site:

Holy crap this is awesome!!!!

Here’s what Nathan Anderson has to say about this:

They’re all here! I took it upon myself to create an illustration of a Mythological creature or character for every letter of the alphabet, trying to span across a multitude of cultures and creature-types. Another thing I wanted to accomplish with this project was to find some the more unusual and/or obscure creatures that don’t get as much representation in artwork. Individual Tumblr Posts with said creatures’ descriptions are below.

Again, I’ll be making this into a small run of books as a way to test the waters. If there’s more demand for a larger run, I’ll definitely be looking into it!

All REBLOGS are appreciated!

Bestiary Alphabetum: Each Entry is clickable!

A is for Ammit

B is for The Beast of Gevaudan

C is for Cockatrice

D is for Dullahan

E is for Eurynomos

F is for Faun

G is for Grendel

H is for Harpy

I is for Indus Worm

J is for Jersey Devil

K is for Krampus

L is for Lamassu

M is for Manticore

N is for Nuckelavee

O is for Otoroshi

P is for Penanggalan

Q if for Questing Beast

R is for Rangda

S is for Succubus

T is for Tzitzimitl

U is for Ushi-Oni

V is for Vegetable Lamb

W is for Wyvern

X is for Xing Tian

Y is for Yara-Ma-Yha-Who

Z is for Ziphius

What No One Tells the PitchWarriors – Dear Pitchwars 2015 Mentees

Dear Pitchwars 2015 Mentees,

Yellow-Brick-RoadSo you’ve made it. You’re on the other side of the fence. Your writing life is about to change dramatically. Almost all of these ways are amazing and exciting. But I know I found a few thorns in my PitchWars bouquet of blessings. They were small, but because I wasn’t expecting them, they really stung. So I’m going to tell you a few of the surprising PitchWars impacts, and why it’s worth it all.

Teddy, you're all I've got left. Please learn to read so you can beta my second draft.

Teddy, you’re all I’ve got left. Please learn to read so you can beta my second draft.

Your Relationship to Your Writing Friends May Change
Usually, by the time you get into PitchWars, you’ve already made many friends on the journey. These people may have hid with you in the trenches of Query Kombat, or re-tweeted your #SFFpit pitches at 1am while feeding their newborn. They may be a part of your daily life and such a close friend that you’re sure nothing will ever change that.

But PitchWars may. Writing is a frustrating, bananas business and, try though we may, we all compare the success of others to our own. For some of your friends who don’t get in, being your friend might just be too hard, at least for a while. Many people in our group reported suddenly losing their longtime critique partners, or at least strained relationships that left no one happy. Now, just as many had friends who supported them 100%. But know that, if this does happen to you, it’s not your fault and you’re not imagining things. And it will likely pass. Just try to be compassionate, because…

Guess which of us got more requests than the rest? Sigh?

Guess which of us got more requests than the rest? Sigh.

Yeah, You’re Still Going to Judge Yourself Based on the Success of Others
We all do it. Every last one of us. And it’s going to get harder once all your PitchWars friends — and whoa Nelly, you’re going to make them, and they’re going to become your best friends — start experiencing rapid and major successes, while you’re still querying. And oncesad_panda you’ve gone through PitchWars, your goals seem unbearably close. To have others reach them before you is maddening, even when you love them. And trust me, you will. You will love them and want them to succeed and your heart will soar with pride when they move on to agents and book deals and all the awesome things that go with it. Then, YES, it is going to slump over like a sad panda.

Now, I have a name for this. I call it the Teodora syndrome. You are not even going to guess why, so here you go: Teodora is the best friend character in the movie Nadia. For the unitiated, this is an 80’s classic about the rise and fall and re-rise of gymnast Nadia Comaneci (which, OMG, you can watch in full on YouTube.) A highly-talented gymnast in her own right, Teodora spenadiands much of the movie struggling with the long tail of Nadia’s deepening shadow. She doesn’t cope so well, but you can. Because these people are your friends, and you need to keep it that way.

What helps me deal with this problem to this day is the Vent Binge. If I can’t shake my blues, I set a timer, grab a willing victim, and bitch/moan/whine/ventmybile for five minutes. The timer goes off, I’m done. And I go back to being a good person who supports and celebrates the amazing people who support and celebrate her. The key to this is I never ever ever rain on someone else’s parade. Your writing friends have worked their asses off and earned everything they’ve gotten. They deserve to feel the rewards of their achievement without worry about your green eyes. So keep the comments supportive and kind. If you have to fake it, do it. But for God’s sake, if you’re feeling too downhearted by your progress to be the friend your buddies deserve, put the keyboard down! Step away. Never say something you can’t take back, because these relationships are precious.

Well, if you must shred my soul, you might as well make a cool zombie thing out of it.

Well, if you must shred my soul, you might as well make a cool zombie thing out of it.

You Will Rip Your Manuscript Apart and Discover You Know Jack-All about Writing Craft
So you’ve been writing for a while. You’ve been in some contests, got a coupla manuscripts under your belt. Maybe you’ve had a few things published. You’ve got this, no sweat. Your mentor’ll find a few small errors, you’ll fix ’em right-quick, then you’ll spend the next few months having pleasant chats and gossip with your mentor.

Yeah, no.

I thought my manuscript was excellent. And then my mentor read it and I realized I had a main character with no motive and a crazy-train of a plot bound for nowhere. Meanwhile, all my new Pitch Wars friends were chattering about Beat Sheets and 1st plot points and the scene/sequel sequence and I was embarrassed because I suddenly realized I knew bumpkis about writing craft. So I studied and plotted (You can read more about how I learned here). I rewrote the whole damn thing, word for word. And it was the best thing I ever did. Because now I know a little bit about the writing craft. And in this instance, a little bit of knowledge goes a long, long way (see the “You Will Astonish Yourself” section below.)

greek chorusWHY DO IT????
So this PitchWars thing sounds pretty awful, right? Well, not really. I’m sure you’ve already decided that all the obvious benefits like an improved manuscript and exposure to agents far outweigh some fights with old friends and a few days as a sad panda. But Pitch Wars had a few unexpected rewards whose value far surpassed any requests I got.

You Will Meet People that You Cannot Live Without
I’m sure by now you’re like “Yeah, yeah lady. It’s all about the community. La-di-da.” I know I was right around now in PitchWars. Because, lets be honest, you didn’t sub to PitchWars for the community. You subbed to get an agent and a book deal. But you’re going to get something so much better than that. Ybestfriendsou are going to get friends. Wonderful friends. Friends who understand you, who will call you when you can’t take it anymore, who will send you feathers for inspiration or cookies for a late-night writing binge. Friends who will make you be a better writer, whether you want to or not.

I had no idea when I entered PitchWars that a year later I’d have a large group of people that I talk to several times a day, every single day. And that these people would be — hands-down — the BEST thing to come out of Pitch Wars. I couldn’t make it an hour without these gifted writers. And I was stupid enough when I started that I almost didn’t join the Facebook group the amazing Nikki Roberti made for us.

Lean in to this. Make friends. Real friends. They’ll still be there long after the agents have made their last requests.

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Holy shit did you see what I wrote?????

You Will Astonish Yourself
So yeah, after I sent my last round of queries on my PitchWars novel, I started something new. Since it worked so well for me the first time, I decided to learn a new craft method and plot out my next novel at the same time as an instructional piece. I sure learned a lot about writing, and I was certain I’d write the 1st draft lickety split. Just follow the outline and *poof* one and done. (Well, not really, but you get it).

So I wrote. Weird words came out. I said “Umm kay” but decided to roll with it. More weird words came out. More. Almost none had anything to do with what I’d planned. I was beyond trepidatious when I reached the 10k mark and forced myself to look back. I read my story with half-closed eyes. My eyes popped open. I read again. My jaw dropped. It was weird. It wasn’t what I planned. But I wrote something…amazing. Gorgeous images. Vivid, crisp words. And because I knew a little more about structure, the plot was taking a shape that wouldn’t require six months of pruning to reveal. If I didn’t know better, I’da sworn a published author wrote it. I was absolutely flabbergasted.

rose heartSo that’s PitchWars for you. A chance to learn, grow, trowel through your work and see it anew. Try to embrace the unexpected flowers you find in the weeds: they certainly bloomed the brightest for me. And if you nip yourself with the garden shears, well, grab a band-aid and message one of your new best-friends to tell ’em all about it. Then use it in a scene. ;

You can read more PitchWars on-the-ground/in-the-trenches/dreams-come-true/hopes-crash-and-burn-and-rise-again experiences (we got it all, folks) from these other members of the PitchWars 2014 class:

Amanda Rawson Hill: On Doubt and Hope

Jennifer Hawkins: Last year at this time, I was you…

K. Kazul Wolf: Congrats on getting further into the insanity…

A.B. Sevan: Swimming with the Big Fishies

Tracie Martin: What No One Tells the PitchWarrior

RuthAnne Snow: 2014 Pitch Wars Mentee here, looking to offer…

Rosalyn Collings Eves: Most of you are probably sick with dread…

Peggy J. Sheridan: Welcome to the club…

Janet Walden-West: The Long Game

Destiny Cole: Yup, I’m talking to you…

Kelly DeVos: Confessions of a PitchWars Alternate

Mary Ann Marlowe: First things first…

Mara Rae: I’m going to keep it short and sweet…

Jen Vincent: Last year, on a complete whim…

Kip Wilson: Congratulations, lucky mentees…

A. Alys Vera: PitchWars is great, don’t get me wrong…

Nikki Roberti: 3 Things You Need to Know

Erin Foster Hartley: I’ve been putting this off…

Shari Green: The Most Important Thing(s)…

And you might enjoy some of these other posts about my contest experiences:
How to Survive the Night Before a Contest Announcement
A Pantser’s Guide to PitchWars
A Cringing Misfit’s Guide to Online Writing Cons and Contests

The Slumber Party — Wren Michael’s Vexed

So welcome to the Slumber Party. Because I need another blog series  — yes REALLY. I’m blessed to have lot of lovely friends all slogging or sprinting or Olympic medalling in this writing thing we’re doing, and someone has to share their awesome experiences.

First upVEXED-evernightpublishing-JayAheer2015-banner3 is the lovely Wren Michaels, who’s just released her very first full length novel with Evernight publishing, Vexed. I’m crazy proud of her and can’t wait to get my mitts on this sexy story. So take it away, Wren!

Q) How did you dream up the dynamics of your characters? Originally the story was going to be completely different when I wrote the first 5000 words or so of the book. But after I came back from the 2014 Romantic Times convention in New Orleans, I was inspired to write something with a Vodou/NOLA flair. So the book took a twist and became so much more than I ever imagined. I wanted a strong heroine and an alpha male. But Luc ended up being more of an Alpha/Beta blend. He’s not really one or the other. He’s quite complex. Kena ended up being a witty heroine who took things into her own hands.

Q) Do you have any habits that get you in the writing frame of mind? Music is my biggest influence. I listened to mainly instrumental gaming soundtracks while writing. But one of my Critique Partners burned me a CD of music she thought would be perfect for this book, and it was filled with great songs by The Black Keys, Rolling Stones, Zepplin, Jack White and Muse. It ended up really making scenes come alive for me.

Q) How much real life do you put into or influences your books? In this book I tried to make the characters reflect their Vodou based deities. I did take some artistic liberties and spun a few things, but I did a lot of research to make sure a lot of the intricacies of their actual descriptions and quirks made it into the story.

VEXED-evernightpublishing-JayAheer2015-finalimages

Vodou stole her life. A gay ghost stole her boots. And the man who stole her heart stole her memories. Kena plans to get it all back.

Ex-cop Kena’s life is filled with regret, beer, and Cheetos. That is, until her ghostly roomie sends her dumpster diving, leading her to a sexy stranger named Luc and a fate she’d rather not remember. As Kena’s memories resurface, so do her feelings for Luc, the man she’s secretly been in love with for the last thousand years. And he needs her for more than a stroll down memory lane.

Vodou spirits, known as Loa, have been trapped in human form, and are trying to make their way back to the spirit world. But Luc’s brother is possessed by a vengeance demon conjured at the hands of NOLA’s crime syndicate kingpin. Saving him means damning herself to a spirit prison in a loveless, arranged union with the very man she’s supposed to rescue. But not helping Luc’s brother sentences him to death, leaving New Orleans in the hands of black magick, and losing Luc forever.

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excerptCHANGEOFHEART

After stripping out of the wet clothes, I wrapped the towel around myself and wandered out to his room. On the bed lay a white long-sleeve button-down shirt. With a hard swallow, I dropped the towel and picked up the shirt, pulling it to my face. I took a long, hard sniff. Laundry detergent. Of course. Did I think it would smell like him?

Like he’d give you a dirty shirt to wear, Kena.

Thankful he didn’t witness me in idiot-mode, I slid myself into the shirt and was caught mid-button when he knocked at the door.

“Are you decent?” He pushed the door open a crack.

“I’m clothed, if that’s what you mean. Decent is debatable at the moment.” Purposely leaving the top three buttons undone, I worked my way to the bottom button as he walked in.

He halted mid-stride and looked at me. His chest rose and fell in quick spurts, training his eyes over me from head to toe. Veins traversed the length of his arm as he clenched his fists at his sides. “I don’t wear underwear, so I apologize I have no bottoms. It’s all I had that was long enough to cover you.” His position relaxed as he leaned against the mahogany armoire.

“Anything’s better than cold, sopping-wet clothes.” I ran a finger through my hair, now slowly drying into loose stringy curls.

“So, are you going to tell me what happened tonight?” Folding his arms across his broad chest, bulging muscles stretched the navy-blue fabric barely covering his biceps.

I shook my head. “Not until I get some honesty from you, big guy.”

With a tilt of his head, he donned a sly grin. “You haven’t asked the right questions.”

“Is this a game for you? Do you enjoy messing with people’s lives? Do you get off on some fucked-up high being in total control?” My fingernails burrowed into the palm of my hand. Everything in me wanted to slap the shit out of him and then ride him like a cowboy.

He pushed off the dresser and walked over to me, lowering his head coming to a stop inches from my face. “You’re the one in control and yet you refuse to acknowledge it. You refuse to let your mind accept it. Stop playing and start being.”

“What do you want from me?” I yelled, a little louder than intended.

“I want you to be you. I want you to”—he stopped and dropped his gaze to my lips, and then slowly made his way back up to my eyes—“come back.”

“Kiss me.” The words rushed from my lips without another thought. My heart hammered so hard in my chest I thought it would shatter my rib cage.

His breathing quickened. A low growl rumbled in his throat. “Don’t do this to me, Kena.”

“Don’t do what? You’re the one doing things to me.” I slammed my hands against his chest and he sailed across the room, his back hitting the dresser behind him. “Shit! I’m sorry.” I reached out for him with a trembling hand.

Fuck, I’d done it again.

He shook his head and straightened himself up. In a blur of movement, he shot across the room and grabbed onto either side of my shirt, yanking me up to his face. “You want me to kiss you?”

“Yes,” I said in more of whooshing sound than a word.

He pressed his lips against my neck and his fingers curled into the fabric of the shirt, pulling me onto my tiptoes. “You don’t even know who I am.”

“I don’t care.” Words no longer made sense to me, only his touch spoke a language I could understand.

He laughed as he pushed me against the wall. Gripping the back of my head with the entire palm of his hand, he splayed the other across my cheek, his thumb resting against my jawline. Tilting my head back, he hovered his lips over mine. “You will.”

His lips crushed against my mouth.

With a sweep of his tongue, he devoured me into a kiss the likes of which I’ve never experienced before in my life. He punished my mouth with his tongue, sliding it over mine in a delicious dance of ecstasy and aggression. His hold on me was not that of violence, but of passion. The way his fingertips eased against my face, yet held me there as if he was scared to let go, revealed a vulnerability. He may be a man of few words who knew how to play the vague card, but his body and actions gave him away.

I arched into him, and he pinned me back against the wall with his hip. Clawing at his shirt, I ripped it out of his jeans and slid my fingers over his heated skin. A surge of energy rushed my fingertips as they glided along his body, electrifying me.

“Fuck, Kena,” he hissed, pulling back from the kiss.

In a movement so fast it blurred everything around me, he shot out the door, slamming it behind him. He left me gasping, clinging to the wall behind me just to remain standing. My legs wobbled like Jell-O as I stumbled to the bed and collapsed. He sucked all the air from my body and replaced it with an ache, a driving need for more of him.

What the hell was he?

VEXED-evernightpublishing-JayAheer2015-banner1

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Wren Michaels hails from the frozen tundra of Wisconsin where beer and cheese are their own food groups. But a cowboy swept her off her feet and carried her away below the Mason-Dixon line, where she promptly lost all tolerance for snow and cold. They decided they’d make beautiful babies together and they got it right on the first try. Now Wren lives happily ever after in the real world and in the worlds of her making, where she creates book boyfriends for the masses to crave.

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The Jewelry Box – Dispatches from the Raven King’s Homeland

Yes.

YES!!!!!!!!!

I’ve prolly mentioned before that I’ve got fiddly fingers as a reader. I’m impatient and I abandon dull books freely. I haven’t purchased a paper book in four years. So for an 800+ page opus with copious footnotes and convoluted plots to still live on my bookshelf after four moves and two children — cover ripped off, pages taped to the snapped spine — well, the writing has to be out-of-this-world spectacular.

Picture Jane Austen envisioning a world where practical magic was a normal part of English life. And it returns as the purview of fusty English gentleman in breeches and meeting halls, debating around the banquet table at their supper club. And then magic returns under the hands of the fusty-dustiest bachelor hoarder of them all. Imagine what Jane’s quill would have done with this situation. Picture it….wait, you don’t need to, because Clarke included Dickens-style images in manuscript:

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Are your hands shaking? They should be. Susanna Clarke’s groundbreaking alt-history/fantasy Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is that good. I’m still shocked that we haven’t seen more like it, that the publishing landscape didn’t undergo a seismic shift because of Clarke’s achievement. I’m not alone in that befuddlement. And I’ve been waiting for twelve years for a sequel. I’d wait forever, but it HURTS. Every month or so I think “When, Susanna? When?” I google for any news. Even the slightest glimmer of hope would do: a sighting of her entering a mystical writing cave, stocking up on whatever tea she drinks. Anything…

Yesterday, I stumbled upon this article on Slate.

I scared my kids screaming with delight.

So pretend you’re a LOTR fan who’s been living in Plato’s Cave for five years, and you emerge in December of 2001. Someone hands you a newspaper. You flip to the A&E section and on page one there’s a review for The Fellowship of the Ring. And it’s opening that day. So do you (a) eat your first cheeseburger, (b) get some sexy time, or (c) immediately hail a cab and go to the first movie theater you can find. You know the answer, right?

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AMC better have that shaky cheese topping for the popcorn

Talk about having and eating your cake. My favorite book (sharing the same shelf space as Life of Pi and A Canticle for Lebowitz and A Confederacy of Dunces), made into an 8-hour miniseries by the folks that brought us Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice. Available immediately. It just doesn’t get any better. God bless you, Amazon.

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It was good for me!

The Panty Drawer – Designing Principle – The In-Betweener Speaks Out

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 11.00.21 AMAlrighty, now that contest season is settling down, I can finally post the Nikki Roberti‘s interesting take on Designing Principle. If you haven’t met Nikki yet, trust me, you will.😉 Nikki is a professional journalist and marketer, playwright, librettist, and…oh, a young adult author represented by Carrie Howland of the Donadio & Olson Literary Agency.

So I’ll just let Nikki speak for herself, eh? Enjoy!

1.) What’s your writing panty style

(a) Granny (you’ll pry my Beat Sheet out of my cold, dead hands)

(b) High-cut brief (I like a lot of structure and outlining, but I need a little room to wiggle)

(c) Bikini (I like enough structure to get me going, but I need a lot more free skin to show)wolfthong

(d) Thong (I might jot a few ideas down, but I mostly bare-bum my way through writing)

(e) Commando (I write nekkid as a wee babby.)

Yup, thong is definitely my spirit animal (err…spirit panty?). Usually when I have an idea, I write until I realize where I’m going. After that point, I’ll make an out-of-order checklist of things that need to happen before the end and cross those off as I go. However, I’ve been slowly drifting closer and closer to being more structured (I actually wrote a tentative to-do list BEFORE chapter 2 this time. That’s new), but honestly, too much structure makes me nervous and paralyzed with fear.

2.) Have you ever used a Designing Principle before or was this your very first time? 

This was totally my first time even hearing about this concept. I mean, I knew people plotted, but I had no idea people were this in depth with their books. I’m a bit in awe right now and feeling rather exposed in my teeny weeny thong.

bigfishlittlefish3.) Was it good for you? Be descriptive, baby!

Honestly, this overwhelmed me completely and made me feel super inferior. But once I got over my blinding “AHHHHHHHH WHAT AM I LOOOKING AT AHHHHHHH” moment, I was able to see some real merit–especially when exploring my main character’s mental state and how it impacts the narrative. A lot of my characters either are going through a traumatic situation or have some kind of deep personal issue that they’re struggling with and they all handle them differently. I love the idea of really digging deep down to have the overall theme and intended feeling as a massive presence from the beginning.

However, I don’t know if I can do it…or want to do it. As I write, I get to know my characters and feel what they’re feeling as they’re feeling it. Sometimes I don’t know what the overall end result should be or what my character should realize, but as I’m writing, I uncover that truth with them.

Yes, this does also mean I have to do a lot of revisions because once that first draft is finished and my ultimate truth is realized, I do have to go back and weave certain things through the narrative to add the level of completeness and emotional impact I need. So, my way isn’t necessarily the best way by any means. It’s probably a lazy way in some people’s eyes and adds extra work, but right now, it works for me.

4.) Will you use it again?

Maybe one day I’ll have a better handle on this kind of method, and I’ll certainly try it on a new draft in the future…just maybe not tomorrow.

mindmap5.) Anything else to share about writing in general? Tips/tricks/things you wish someone had told you?

The greatest thing I ever learned that was my first step into trying to plot at least a little was outlining every single character’s desires & fears. Here’s the basic chart I use (there are longer ones out there, but this is all I can handle right now):

Flaw:

Strength:

Love:

Hate:

Fear:

This concept was so eye opening to me, and in a lot of places, really helped me add a layer of humanity and authenticity to a character’s reactions to things and other people. I’d highly recommend doing this with your own characters. Even my agent has been like, “What is the source of so-and-so’s hate right now?” and having this chart has been SO helpful.

But above all else, do what works for you, be open to change, and never be afraid to learn new things.

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Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, Nikki! Next week, we’re taking a little Truby vacation and looking at character development issues. First up: the Secret! Shh!!! Stay tuned.