Convergence

I was prepared for much of the publishing process. My experience with nonfiction and the research I conducted beforehand helped. There was one thing, though, which neither of these things prepared me for.

Being a writer is a strange thing. Ask any writer and they will tell you we do not live alone in our heads. I live with a miasma of people, their histories and foibles inside my head. They have conversations with each other (which I scramble to jot down in the strangest of places on the note cards I carry), they reveal things to me about themselves, and they act out the dramas which they find themselves enmeshed in.

All inside my head. While I am trying to do other things.

It sounds crazy.

Other writers are nodding their heads, in complete understanding.

People who are not writers often ask, “Aren’t they characters you made up? What do you mean they tell you things and you can’t make them do whatever you want? They aren’t real.”

In my head they are real. It is like having my brain full of imaginary friends.

Then, I did something all writers want to do to the people in their heads. I wrote them down, published them in a book, and now people are reading about the people who live in my head.

The strangest thing has happened to me since then, a convergence.

People are coming up to me and talking to me about my imaginary friends as if they were real. I realize this is a compliment, that they have connected with the characters in a way that makes them real, makes the reader care. It is both hilarious and exhilarating to discuss the motivations of the people I have made up and live in the world I created with other people. I did not expect these conversations and I am enamored of them.

After spending so much time with the characters of Turning Creek, I care for them. They make me laugh. They make me cry. They make me hope for something better in their lives. I want them all to find their purpose and live their life in a way which displays justice, mercy, and love. It breaks my heart to know not all of them will succeed. Most will, but only after much struggle.

Every day, someone else discovers Petra and the gang and it makes me smile to know my characters have taken up residence in someone else’s brain. For a little while, at least.

Want to meet Petra? Lightning in the Dark is available in various formats for your reading pleasure.

 

Lightning in the Dark is Out

My book is making its debut, and while it is not wearing a white dress, it does have a darn fine cover. Here is a peek at the print cover which is even more beautiful than the ebook version:

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00071]

 

Lightning in the Dark, set in Colorado Territory in 1858, is filled with harpies, cattle herding, drinking, kissing, cheese, battles against evil, and general shenanigans. I know you are all dying to read it so here are the buy links:

print: Amazon, CreateSpace
ebook: Amazon, Google Play, Kobo, iTunes, Nook, All Romance

All the vendors should be live by the end of the week.

I am unsure what to even write this morning. I swing wildly from being excited to having a panic attack. I am scared no one will read it. I am scared that everyone will.

I started writing this series because harpies were fascinating and I wanted to redeem them. I wanted to write a book I would love to read, a historical fantasy with some romance. I set the series in one of my favorite places, Colorado, because my soul belongs in the mountains. While parts of the process were painful, development edits, other parts were fantastic, seeing the cover for the first time.

I love writing this series. The draft of the second one is already to my editor and I have started the third. There will be four full length books and two novellas before I am done with Turning Creek. It is going to be a fabulous ride.

A Collection of Words

I am a collector of words.

I always have been. I cannot imagine collecting anything else. From a young age, I hoarded books the way other kids hoarded barbies and dolls. The words in books changed my view of the world. They buried themselves in my soul and wove their way into my life. They changed who I was and helped me become who I am in this moment.

At some point, I started collecting other words. Snippets of things I read, things people would say, or words I found amusing. (Fisticuffs is truly a delightful word.) I would jot these words on paper, in notebooks, or on the stack of index cards I began to carry as an adult. I love a well-turned phrase. I collect them. The act of writing them down somehow burns them into my brain. Later, I can take them out, roll them on my tongue, and revisit the emotion in them.

Perhaps, it is a natural progression of collecting words in books, to collecting words on paper, to finally collecting one’s own words. I started writing words from my own imaginings.

The words I wrote when I was younger were touching in their naivete, but I see the seed of the adult I would be in them. I kept writing over the years, most writers have some kind of compulsion which pushes them to write, and I am no different. I wrote stories, poems, and, eventually, nonfiction as my schooling and profession required. Now, I am free to again write fiction and collecting these words has been joyous toil.

I am a collector of words. I read them. I relish them. I feel them. I create them.

Go out and discover some words today, someone else’s or your own, and be a collector of something fabulous.

Silvercliff or Bust

I know a week of silence here is not something out of the ordinary, but I will be offline for the next week. I will be at Silvercliff Ranch in Colorado with a bunch of high school kids. No cell phones, no email, no Twitter. It is nice to be unplugged for a few days.

Gideon and Mom

Gideon and Me

I know 24 hours on a bus and then a week of late nights and early mornings with a bunch of teenagers sounds terrible to some of you. I think it is one of the best weeks of my year. I will miss my boys, but I will be in the mountains, which for me is the sum of all good things.

When I get back, I am going to announce an exciting project for RWA Conference at the end of July. Authors, even if you are not going, you will want to know about this. Stay tuned.

The Best in This Moment

When I wrote Mob Rule Learning, it was the longest piece of writing I had undertaken at that time. Before that, the bulk of my writing had been articles and blog posts. The glory of writing for the web is the constant feedback, discussion, and metamorphoses a conversation can undergo in hours, days, or months. Writing long form non-fiction was painful because it is like writing in an echo chamber. I spent a lot of time wondering, “What the heck do I know any way?” and “Does this tripe even make sense?”

Since then, I have completed three fiction manuscripts and I have one WIP (work in progress). The process of writing the first draft of fiction is wonderful. I love the worlds I have created and I love the process of weaving words together.

I took the next step and found an editor I thought would mesh well with my writing and my goals and who would challenge me. I am now in the middle of development revisions for the first book in a series I want to release next year and I have learned something valuable.

This stage of fiction writing is just as painful as writing long form non-fiction.

The reasons are different for each type, but it boils down to the same questions, “What the heck do I know?” and “Does this tripe even make sense?”

In facing these questions again, but for different reasons this time, I know that no matter what kind of stuff you write, if you are author, you spend time wrestling with these questions. The secret is to get past them quickly because they can mire you in indecision and immobilize your brain.

This morning, when you sit down to do the thing you do (write, teach, cook, lead, or change the world) be the best you can be today, this moment, and keep pushing forward. If we do it right, each moment teaches us something new and wonderful and each moment we improve.

Development revisions are painful and I have spent the last week pulling out my hair, but I want what comes at the end, a better book, and so I persevere.

Here is what I’ve been reading…

I have read some fantastic books in the last month or so and I wanted to share them with you, dear readers. I know all of you have plenty of time to read as many books as you want, right? Exactly.

ProTip: I keep track of what I have read and when on a Google Calendar called Books Read. It makes creating a list at the end of the year a breeze and I can access it easily.

I read mostly fiction, but every once in awhile I will read a nonfiction for research or for fun. I recently read Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink and it is the best nonfic I have read in a very long time. Fink’s style is approachable and she does an excellent job of both laying out the events at the hospital and how the legal case was compiled. Where I think this book excels is the way Fink gives the reader a sense of empathy for all the major players in this heart wrenching story. I highly recommend this book.

I have a weakness for wounded heroes and in the past couple months I have read multiple books with this trope, as you shall see from my list. I read the first two books of the Bec McMaster series London Steampunk and enjoyed them. I want to get back to this series soon. They are paranormal steampunk with very wounded heroes so what could be bad about these?

In a fit of being unable to find something to read (I tried an old Garwood western but it let me down), I reread Castle of the Wolf by Sandra Schwab. One of these good days, Sandra will fulfill my deepest desires and get a digital copy of this up. It is currently out of print but if you ever find a copy, it is worth it’s weight in gold. Fenris is still one of my all time favorite wounded heroes. Lucky for you, Sandra has some other offerings which are digital. Of her recent novels, Bewitched is my favorite.

After a discussion with a friend regarding wounded heroes, she strongly suggested (read: beat me over the head) I read When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James. The witty dialog between the two main characters is what makes this book sing. The glimpses into early medicine were also quite fascinating. I am glad I took my friend’s advice. (Thanks, Katy!)

I caught up on Meljean Brook’s The Iron Seas series. Brook has a way with world creation that explodes my mind every time I read her stuff. The vivid characters she creates to fill her worlds take my breath away. These books are so good I want to devour them, but they end up eating me instead.

I am way, way, sadly late to this party, but I started reading the Guild Hunter series by Nalini Singh. I am embarrassed to tell you how long all of her series have been on my TBR list. If the rest of her series are even half as good as the first half of the first novel of Guild Hunters, Angel’s Blood, you can all expect to hear nothing from me until I consume them all.

What are you reading?

A Week Off

I am taking a week off of the Writer’s Devos because it is spring break here and we have been having way too much fun for any of our usual stuff.

To divert you from all the snow you are having, if you live in the great white north, here are some fun things to do while you are not working or not writing.

Emma Approved – A fun video series based on Austen’s Emma. Brought to you by the same group who did the fabulous Lizzie Bennett Diaries.

Legography – Photographer Andrew Whyte takes pictures of his Lego minifig and they are amazing.

Do some swooning by poking around on the Outlander series site. Can it please be summer already? I have my bottle of scotch ready.

Staying Informed with Community

I have a set of Tipples out today with FreePint Newsletter (scroll to the bottom). Tipples are quick tips for staying informed.

It was excrutiating to boil down my information consumption into 4-5 places/tools with general appeal. The things I chose to include are things which have stood the test of time, but after making my list I realized this:

The number one thing keeping me engaged, up-to-date, and informed is my community.

My community, tribe, mob, crowd, or whatever label you give it is what influences what articles I read, what books I buy, what RSS feeds I subscribe to, in some cases where I shop, and how my opinion on a topic evolves.

I participate in different communities, because each one offers me a different information set and, occasionally, different values.

The tools and websites I mention are all well and good, but they are nothing without the community behind them and I am nothing without mine.

If you do not participate in different communities or even one community online, you are missing the point of this beautiful, living thing called the internet. Newsflash: It’s not just for porn anymore!

–Jane, loves her tribes

Changing the Process

Yesterday, Ann Aguirre wrote a post about how her writing habits have changed, for the better, and how she has become so prolific. Her post-apocalyptic YA series that starts in Enclave is fantastic. In her post she says this:

Process is not a permanent, indelible thing.

This statement, while I am applying it to writing, can be applied to any work process. It made me think about how my process has changed over the last ten years and that we should be examining our processes periodically to improve them.

When I had an office job, my writing process involved sitting down in my office, closing the door, cranking music, and hacking away. No one interrupted me (well, sometimes) and I could write until I was done with that thought, post, or article. At the time, I did not understand the blessing of interrupted time.

When I needed to write something longer than 1k, like an article or when I wrote my Library Technology Report, I needed whole chunks of time to think and write. I needed to be able to spread out my research and papers in a large area that would not be touched. I needed music.

I left my library job to become a mom and many things in my life changed, but my writing and working process did not. This caused much anxiety as I was writing Mob Rule Learning, which I did in about 5 months. Because I thought I needed those large chunks of time, which you do not have as a parent of a small child, I was only able to write when someone else could watch the Bairn. Since that was not always an option, I started writing while he was playing on his own, which is only in small chunks of time. Sometimes very, very small chunks.

After finishing Mob Rule Learning, I decided to tackle the writing project I have always wanted to do. I wanted to write a book of fiction. With two small kids, instead of one, I had to reassess my process.

It was hard and at first I was more frustrated than anything else. I would write two sentences and be interrupted. A scene would just start to form and then there was whining and crying, usually mine, as I had to feed, change, or console one of the boys.

With a detailed plot outline in hand, I found I could work in smaller amounts of time. My boys are allowed to watch no more than 1-1.5 hours of TV a day and I usually use that time to write. I used to write with headphones and music blaring. Now, I write to the music of Dinosaur Train, Sesame Street, Justice League, and Iron Man. I still wear headphones, but I can only wear one earbud, two if I do not turn it up too loud.

I find those small cracks in the day to write. Some days, I am lucky and will have two hours of mostly uninterrupted time. Those are the days I can churn out 2-3k. Other days, I am lucky to turn my computer on at all. I have learned to accept and take what is offered, but I make time when it is there.

It took me a year, mostly because I was doing some learning about writing fiction verses nonfiction, to write the first book. I have been working on the second one for a month now and the first draft is halfway done.

The difference in my pace is due mostly to the fact that I changed my process. I taught myself to write in smaller segments. There is always something we can improve in our process, whatever your work may be. We just have to brave enough to peer closely at our own habits and pull the weeds holding back our garden.

I still prefer to sit alone for 2-4 hours with music blaring to churn out words. I revel in that, but I do not need that anymore.

–Jane, some weeds are pretty and harder to remove

p.s. I wrote this with Dinosaur Train on the TV and Mumford and Sons crooning quietly in my ear.

This Moment

This first year of motherhood is overwhelming, joyful, and stretches you beyond your limits. Eventually, the children learn to amuse themselves, though they still need you for many, many things. Once Bairn4 turned one, I started writing again. I wrote a book, Mob Rule Learning.

It was an interesting process, writing non-fiction. I found through the process that I preferred writing non-fiction in the length of articles and blog posts, not books. The process did give me the confidence to try something new and different.

Then Bairn1 came along and I was again in the throes of high maintenance motherhood. The youngest Rochesterling has achieved the ability to amuse himself and thus I have again been writing. All the free time I could squeeze out has been spent working on a new project.

I wrote a novel, a fantasy romance, that has been bouncing around in my head for a very long time. Unlike the non-fiction experience, it was exhilarating. I am now polishing up the manuscript for submission. That part of the process makes me freeze with anxiety and fear. I have determined that one step at a time is the best way to tackle the anxiety of the submission process.

I have begun, in the past year, to drop my ALA committments and disengage from libraryland. Oh, I still follow mostly librarians on Twitter, though they are starting to be outnumbered by editors, publishers, and writers. I will still be presenting at Internet Librarian in October. I loved being a librarian and I may be one again, some day, but my heart’s desire is to write more. Now that Bairn4 and Bairn1 are older, I can write more here, there, and everywhere.

Being at home means I can juggle writing in between quiet time, preschool, and PBS Kids. I am going to use this opportunity to see what I can do.

That is where I am at this moment. A once librarian (and maybe again some day) stay at home mom who wants to write stories with kissing in them.

–Jane, happy with her place