Monday, December 28, 2015

Prepping For A New Year

I'm ready to tuck 2015 up, stick it in my pocket, and move on.

The year has been full of major challenges, mostly related to my business, which has over shadowed almost everything else. There were some highlights: writing three novels, meeting some great people (mostly via Twitter), and going to see Chris Cornell (yes, I'm still going on about that).

Despite the challenges, 2015 was a year of finding myself again. Remembering who I am and getting back to the things that I love, especially writing and music.

The coming year will be one of change. Near the end of January, I'm closing my retail business. It wasn't an easy decision but several factors played into it. I'm in the midst of planning a new online venture with my mom, who also owns her own retail business.

One of my completed urban fantasy manuscripts is ready to be queried again. I can't wait! I'd started querying in June, then met an awesome freelance editor, Kate Angelella, who connected with the story. I decided to work with her. She helped me bring my manuscript up to the next level.

I'm also looking forward to 2016 because some of the people I've met have books coming out! One I've been anxious to read since I first saw her pitch it over a year ago during a Twitter pitch party. To learn more about Blackbird Summer and the wonderful author Em Shotwell, visit her blog. Watch for her cover launch next week.

The book Tiger Lily by Wende Dikec also comes out next month, which I'm looking forward to. I met Wende one evening on Twitter when I was feeling stuck in my own writing and she had tweeted something that reminded me to keep going. For more, visit her blog here.

My critique partner also landed an agent in 2015. I've read her manuscript a few times and loved it. Hopefully this will be her year to find a home for that manuscript with a publishing company. I'm excited for her as well. Keep watching my blog for more on her first book.

So, here's to 2016 being a year where all the seeds I've planted start growing.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Naughty List - A Book Review

After reading this book, I just might be getting coal in my stocking.

The Naughty List is a collection of short romance stories by six talented authors. I loved the range of stories, everything from heartwarming, to frisky, to paranormal. Each story has it's own flavour and tells a tale of love during the holiday season.

I've read several books that are a collection of short stories. Usually there are some I really like (hopefully love), others that I find okay, and some I don't care for too much. This wasn't the case with The Naughty List. I enjoyed every story.

Right from the first story--A Christmas Maggie--I knew I was in for fun. It starts quite hot, then moves to heart wrenching. In this one, Tiffany Reisz, wrote about a man, Daniel, who was having Christmas with his new girlfriend. He'd lost his wife several years ago and wasn't sure he could move forward with his new love. In the vein of A Christmas Carol, Daniel is visited by his late wife's ghost, who shows him the past, present, and future.

This story was really sweet. I liked that the wife shows Daniel a past that wasn't as perfect as he remembered. Though they loved each other, he wanted children and she didn't. I liked that the author didn't make her out to be a villain for her choice, but the couple did struggle. There were several parts in this story that pulled at my heart and brought tears to my eyes. It's not usually the type of story that I'd pick up on my own, but I enjoyed it and the emotions it evoked.

The second story--Christmassy by Alexa Piper--was a paranormal, which is more my speed. In the story, a new witchling, Cora, has to go to see her family for Christmas. Taotien, Valerion, agrees to go with her. The two seem to have a hot and cold relationship. On the drive, they encounter a supernatural entity that has kidnapped a man and Cora insists they must save him.

I got the sense that it was part of a larger story because there seemed to be more going on than the author was revealing. There were times I felt further information would have helped me enjoy the story more, but it likely would have turned into a novel then. As it stands, I enjoyed the paranormal element of Christmassy and there was some good suspense as I wondered if Valerion would find Cora in time. I enjoyed the banter between Cora and Valerion.

The third story, My Midnight Cowboy by Pumpkin Spice, was quite a bit hotter. Lucy is on her way to Wyoming to start a new career as a pastry chef. At the airport, she meets two cowboys who are going on the same flight. One seems a little abrasive, while the other seems sweet. Sitting with the abrasive man on the flight, Lucy finds out he can be lots of fun and brings in the New Year in a memorable way.

My Midnight Cowboy was another story that was out of my usual realm of reading, but thought it was quite good. I wondered which cowboy Lucy would end up with. It seemed like she's picked the right one. I liked the sneaky intimacy on the plane and the way they brought in the New Year. 

In the Doghouse by Elizabeth Black was a shorter than the rest and got right to the point. Nicky and Angela had broken up because Nicky started to become forgetful and take Angela for granted. When he tries to apologize, Angela decides he needs to be punished a little the bedroom.

This continued with the heat level raised in My Midnight Cowboy. I liked that the man was the submissive in this one and it was written from his perspective. I was not impressed with Nicky's treatment of Angela and would have dumped him too. I liked that Angela took control and gave him another chance, after some punishment.

Winter's Daughter by Doug Blakeslee, was an interesting read. In this fantasy story, fae, Etina, comes from the land of winter and is looking for a mate. She finds Byron and spends a hot night with him before he's deployed to Afghanistan. He's told to meet her again at the same ski hill when he returns. Years later, she waits for him to call to her again so she doesn't lose her magic.

Though it was a short story, there was a lot packed in there without it being too heavy. The world building was good and I enjoyed the fae realm and the family conflict between Etina and her sisters. It was an interesting story based in the winter realm.

Stealing Time, by Wendy Sparrow, was the final story of the book. One of Father Time's sons, Zeit, was supposed to take Hanna as a yearly sacrifice last New Year's Eve. The Fates were not happy with the man Zeit took instead--a man having a heart attack. Zeit has been saving Hanna's life all year as the Fates try to claim her. When Hanna checks into the same lodge for this holiday season, Zeit is determined to get her out of his system so he can take her life this New Year's Eve. Once they get to know each other, things get even more complicated.

This story is longer than the others, so when I first picked it up, I thought I'd read just the first chapter. Well, that was a mistake--I couldn't stop! I loved the humour and the characters. I loved the story and had to keep reading to find out what was going to happen. I love the mythology around Zeit and New Yea'rs that Sparrow built. The chemistry between Zeit and Hanna was so well done, and I was ready to cry depending on how Sparrow ended it...I'm not telling!

In every story in The Naughty List, I found likable characters, each with distinct personalities...and varying sexual tastes. Some stories were racy, others not as much, but it all fit with the story. The difference in stories made the book even more enjoyable because I wasn't reading the same type of story over and over.

If you like romance, I highly recommend picking The Naughty List up.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Time Passing In Your WIP

As I've mentioned before, I don't do much pre-planning when I sit down to write. I know the plot, the main character (maybe some secondary characters), and some of the scenes I want to include. Other than than, I wing it. My first draft is usually a zero draft--more of a discovery draft.

I often leave notes while I'm writing. Sometimes it's notes that I don't like the words, sentence, or even the scene, other notes could be about a character's motives, or things I want to elaborate on later. The most common note I see in my work in progress (WIP) is 'What time is it?'

It might not be a question your reader needs the answer too, but as a writer, you need to know. If something is off about your timing, the reading will pick it up. Only so many events can happen in a day.

When I start my first draft, I decide what day it will be in the story and use the Microsoft Word comment feature to note it. Every time the day changes, I note it in the manuscript so I at least know what day I'm working on. This is important because weekends can throw a wrench in your plans. Not everyone works on weekends and many offices are not open on weekends. If your character is working seven days straight for no reason other than you forgot to give them a weekend or a day or two off, your reader will notice.

After I finish my first draft and reorder my scenes/sequence of events, I put the events into a calendar to give me a visual of when things happen. I find it useful to keep track of everything.

Once I start my revisions, then I worry about the time of day. I'm usually pretty good about keeping track while I'm writing, but once I shift things around, I need to make sure everything works. In my current WIP, they are searching for something that only comes out at night so it would make no sense if they encountered it during the day.

Keeping track of the time of day helps you move your story along and by generally knowing if it's morning, late morning, early afternoon, mid-afternoon, evening, etc., you can add flavour to your story and settings. Maybe it's late afternoon and your character is starving because she missed lunch or is fighting rush hour traffic. Maybe your character can enjoy the peacefulness of an early morning. Use the time of day to build your story and setting.