Monday, January 12, 2015

Author website

Don't forget, I have a new website at Check it out for current posts and up to date information about my books!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

New cover! New website!

I designed a new cover for The Sentient!

Oooh, purrrdy

I also got myself a spiffy new author website. Check it out at It's still under construction at this point, but soon I should be using that site for any future blogging and other book-related shenanigans.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Can you feel the love tonight?

How do you feel about romance in your books?

Different genres of course tend to have differing amounts of romance. How much do you prefer to have in the books you read? Do you like it to be a central part of the story? Is a little love accompanying the main theme acceptable? Or is even an inkling of infatuation unwelcome?

When it comes to genre fiction, I like my romance. It does not have to be the focus of the story, but I definitely prefer it to be one of the major components. There can be perfectly good sci-fi and fantasy stories without a little love, but I do admit to being a bit disappointed if there isn't some romance in there somewhere. As a parallel to the main plot, it helps spice the story up for me.

How about you?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

How do YOU Write? Part 4

This 2012 interview with Barbara Kingsolver from The Daily Beast touches on a few topics already mentioned in previous posts - when she writes, does she outline, etc. As a mother to young children myself, one of my favorite parts is how she used to say the school bus was her muse! For me, that is definitely the biggest obstacle to actually sitting down to write these days - finding time when the children aren't vying for my attention. Usually this means writing after they are in bed (although let it be said, bedtime rarely goes smoothly!), or else convincing my husband to take them to do something fun out of the house.

Describe your morning routine.

I tend to wake up very early. Too early. Four o’clock is standard. My morning begins with trying not to get up before the sun rises. But when I do, it’s because my head is too full of words, and I just need to get to my desk and start dumping them into a file. I always wake with sentences pouring into my head. So getting to my desk every day feels like a long emergency. It’s a funny thing: people often ask how I discipline myself to write. I can’t begin to understand the question. For me, the discipline is turning off the computer and leaving my desk to do something else.

When would you normally finish your day, then? What would your evening be like?

For the whole of my career as a novelist, I have also been a mother. I was offered my first book contract, for The Bean Trees, the day I came home from the hospital with my first child. So I became a novelist and mother on the same day. Those two important lives have always been one for me. I’ve always had to do both at the same time. So my writing hours were always constrained by the logistics of having my children in someone else’s care. When they were little, that was difficult. I cherished every hour at my desk as a kind of prize. As time has gone by and my children entered school it became progressively easier to be a working mother. My oldest is an adult, and my youngest is 16, so both are now self-sufficient—but that’s been a gradual process. For me, writing time has always been precious, something I wait for and am eager for and make the best use of. That’s probably why I get up so early and have writing time in the quiet dawn hours, when no one needs me.

Following up on that, do you have any unusual traditions associated with the writing process? Any magic hat you have to wear?

No. As you can probably guess from this conversation, I’ve always been so eager to write that I don’t need any rituals to get myself in the right mood. I used to say that the school bus is my muse. When it pulled out of the driveway and left me without anyone to take care of, that was the moment my writing day began, and it ended when the school bus came back. As a working mother, my working time was constrained. On the other hand, I’m immensely grateful to my family for normalizing my life, for making it a requirement that I end my day at some point and go and make dinner. That’s a healthy thing, to set work aside and make dinner and eat it. It’s healthy to have these people in my life who help me to carry on a civilized routine. And also to have these people in my life who connect me to the wider world and the future. My children have taught me everything about life and about the kind of person I want to be in the world. They anchor me to the future in a concrete way. Being a mother has made me a better writer. It’s also true to say that being a writer has made me a better mother.

Describe your routine when conceiving of a book and its plot, before the writing begins. Do you like to map out your books ahead of time, or just let it flow?

I do a lot of mapping out. I was trained as a scientist—undergraduate and graduate degrees in biology—and I tend to think like a scientist and work like a scientist. It seems to me that every book reminds me of writing a dissertation. Each idea begins with a hypothesis, to put it into scientific terms. A great “what if” that seems important to me. Then I think about how to translate that very real question, about human nature or the world, into a plot. A novel doesn’t tell you anything. It has to show you everything. Even a question has to be asked through character and plot. I spend a lot of time thinking about the narrative structure. I do tons of writing that is not yet scenic but more schematic. It will never appear in the book, it’s really just notes to me about this book. In fact the top of the file might say “The Lamp on the Desk.” I made that up because it’s what I’m looking at now, but you see what I mean. The file will be “The Lamp on the Desk,” and then it will say “the characters are x, y, and z. This is the plot. It begins here, it goes there, everyone has to see x in the end.” It’s writing about the book, almost like a treatment or, as they say in the film industry, a “bible.” I can spend months doing this, until I know who everyone is, and what they will be doing. Only then do I start writing. I invent characters who will do what I need them to do. Then I invent life histories that will make them the kind of people that would do what I need them to do. Like all authors, I’m asked if characters are biographical, if I put people I know into my fiction. You can see from my process that that would be impossible for me. I begin by seeing a narrative, so I can’t put people I know in it—they simply wouldn’t behave properly, they wouldn’t be cooperative and do what I asked of them. So I invent the people I need, and that’s a lot more fun anyway. I can continually refine the characters, their histories, and their damage, until they are exactly the right people I need. Then, after a lot of that work is done, I start writing scenes. Sometimes the opening scene will occur to me first, but usually not. I write a lot of material that I know I’ll throw away. It’s just part of the process. I have to write hundreds of pages before I get to page one.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Learn as much as you can about the world itself. That means not just writing courses, other courses. Probably I would say learn about science. There are very few fiction writers who know about biology, physics, environmental chemistry, and there’s a great need for science in the literary world.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Good reads

My mentor in the world of self-publishing, M. R. Pritchard, came out with a new book recently. Sparrow Man is a sort of romantic dark fantasy novel that might just take your breath away. I'd have to say it's my favorite of her books thus far, although the YA paranormal romance Saratoga isn't too far off in second place. Of note, they both touch on the topics of the heavens and Hell, and even more compellingly on the nature of humanity that exists somewhere in between. Check them out sometime, if you're of the mind!

Click here to find it on Amazon

Meg Clark has turned out to be everything her father and the people of her little North Country town of Gouvernour, NY, have been saying her whole life: nothin’ but a piece of white trash. In an effort to hide her past and turn herself around, she spent her inheritance from her dead mother on the perfect little house with a white picket fence. Then something terrible happened and Meg got sent to county lockup so her fiancĂ©, Jim, wouldn’t have to. And then everyone started waking up…dead.

Good thing escaping from County wasn’t hard. Jim told her exactly how to get free. Now Meg is running and the walking dead are following. In a last ditch effort to find weapons to protect herself, Meg finds Sparrow instead. A tall, strange man with a quirk, Sparrow has an obsession with feathers and the only goal that’s on his mind is finding an old barn on Route 37 with a snowy owl in its rafters.

Meg’s headed to Kingston, where she and Jim agreed to meet if they ever got separated. But sometimes, crossing the border brings more than just freedom and protection and safety. Sometimes it brings questions that someone like Meg would prefer not to answer. And everyone keeps asking questions, including Sparrow. He thinks she’s hiding something and he’s not impressed by her stories of the sins she’s been committing all her life. While Sparrow’s the one who’s a bit cracked in the head, it never occurs to Meg that she could be the one who’s not remembering something. Like what really happened that day she killed those seven men.

Click here to find it on Amazon

Demi has it all figured out. She is going to be a ballerina just like her mother wants. Since the dance studio is the only place she feels like she fits in, it’s the perfect plan. All she wants is a normal life, one where she and her parents aren’t moving to a new place after another one of her accidents. Demi knows she is far from normal. She can feel it every time she walks near a park, or a tree, or a flower. She has a gift-or a curse; green things call to her. They tug at her soul and she has no idea how to control it. That is, until she meets Dylan, a boy with a similar gift. Dylan shows Demi the path to discovering who she is and what fate holds for each of them.

You can find her website at

Keep reading, loves

Thursday, September 25, 2014

How do YOU Write? Part 3

To outline or not to outline?

Let's look at two authors, one who finds devising an outline for his novels before writing useful, and one with a more haphazard and organic way of forming a story.

A.J. Jacobs is the author of such nonfiction as The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. He turns his life into immersion experiments and then writes about his experiences and conclusions. Nonfiction likely lends itself better to the outline approach of writing, but still there are fiction writers who do the same.

In a 2103 interview with The Daily Beast, Jacobs had this to say about how he goes about his writing:

What’s your morning routine like?

My kids wake me up. I have coffee (overall a healthy beverage, by the way; delays Alzheimer’s and lowers risk of certain cancers). I make my kids breakfast, take them to school, then come home and try to write. I fail at that until I force myself to turn off my Internet access so I can get a little shelter from the information storm.

Describe your writing routine.

I am a big fan of outlining. I write an outline. Then a slightly more detailed outline. Then another with even more detail. Sentences form, punctuation is added, and eventually it all turns into a book.

Do you have any unusual rituals associated with the writing process?

I used to drink a lot of Diet Coke to keep me wired. But when writing a book about health, it’s hard to justify three Diet Cokes a day, so I had to quit. I still miss it.

Is there anything distinctive or unusual about your work space?

I write while walking on a treadmill. I’m doing it right now. I started this practice when I was working on Drop Dead Healthy, and read all these studies about the dangers of the sedentary life. Sitting is alarmingly bad for you. One doctor told me that “sitting is the new smoking.” So I bought a treadmill and put my computer on top of it. It took me about 1,200 miles to write my book. I kind of love it—it keeps me awake, for one thing.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Force yourself to generate dozens of ideas. A lot of those ideas will be terrible. Most of them, in fact. But there will be some sparkling gems in there too. Try to set aside 20 minutes a day just for brainstorming.

On the other end of the spectrum are authors like Khaled Hosseini, who wrote The Kite Runner and other novels

Describe your morning routine.

I get up and work out. Get home in time to get the kids off to school (on my days—my wife and I trade off), eat, read the paper, front page first, check all news on Afghanistan. Flip to sports page, check for any San Francisco 49ers news. Then I write, typically from about 8:30 to 2 p.m., at which time I go to pick up my kids from school.

What is a distinctive habit or affectation of yours?

I can’t watch TV without eating peanuts. Can’t be done.

How do you conceive of a book?

I don’t outline at all, I don’t find it useful, and I don’t like the way it boxes me in. I like the element of surprise and spontaneity, of letting the story find its own way. For this reason, I find that writing a first draft is very difficult and laborious. It is also often quite disappointing. It hardly ever turns out to be what I thought it was, and it usually falls quite short of the ideal I held in my mind when I began writing it. I love to rewrite, however. A first draft is really just a sketch on which I add layer and dimension and shade and nuance and color. Writing for me is largely about rewriting. It is during this process that I discover hidden meanings, connections, and possibilities that I missed the first time around. In rewriting, I hope to see the story getting closer to what my original hopes for it were.

Do you have any unusual rituals in your writing process?

I write while my kids are at school and the house is quiet. I sequester myself in my office with mug of coffee and computer. I can't listen to music when I write, though I have tried. I pace a lot. Keep the shades drawn. I take brief breaks from writing, 2-3 minutes, by strumming badly on a guitar. I try to get 2–3 pages in per day. I write until about 2 p.m. when I go to get my kids, then I switch to Dad mode.

What do you need to have produced/completed in order to feel that you’ve had a productive writing day?

At least three good sentences. And an idea of what I will write the next day. Cannot go in blank the next day, the seed has to be planted today.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

I have met so many people who say they've got a book in them, but they've never written a word. To be a writer—this may seem trite, I realize—you have to actually write. You have to write every day, and you have to write whether you feel like it or not. Perhaps most importantly, write for an audience of one—yourself. Write the story you need to tell and want to read. It’s impossible to know what others want so don’t waste time trying to guess. Just write about the things that get under your skin and keep you up at night. You also have to read a lot—and pay attention. Read the kinds of things you want to write, read the kinds of things you would never write. Learn something from every writer you read.

Personally, I am a fan of outlining. I start with a general outline for the book, and as I write and other bits and pieces of the story come to me and I see the way things are supposed to go, I add in more and more detail to the original outline.

I would be very curious to learn how you other writers out there feel about the topic. Outlines - yay or nay?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

How do YOU write? Part 2

Do you write after the family is in bed at night, or get up with the dawn while the world is still and quiet? Do you need to isolate yourself somewhere without things to distract you from the work? Or does your best work come when you are surrounded by the subjects of life, muses from the everyday world to inspire your writing?

In a 2013 interview withe The Daily Beast, Maya Angelou had this to say about how she did her writing:

I’ve read of some eccentric writing habits of yours, involving hotel rooms without pictures on the walls, sherry, and headgear. How did you first come upon that cocktail for writing success, and has the routine evolved over your career?

And headgear! Ha! It was head ties, not headgear! Well, I was married a few times, and one of my husbands was jealous of me writing. When I write, I tend to twist my hair. Something for my small mind to do, I guess. When my husband would come into the room, he’d accuse me, and say, “You’ve been writing!” As if it was a bad thing. He could tell because of my hair, so I learned to hide my hair with a turban of some sort. I do still keep a hotel room in my hometown, and pay for it by the month. I go around 6:30 in the morning. I have a bedroom, with a bed, a table, and a bath. I have Roget’s Thesaurus, a dictionary, and the Bible.

Anything else in the hotel room?

Usually a deck of cards and some crossword puzzles. Something to occupy my little mind. I think my grandmother taught me that. She didn’t mean to, but she used to talk about her “little mind.” So when I was young, from the time I was about 3 until 13, I decided that there was a Big Mind and a Little Mind. And the Big Mind would allow you to consider deep thoughts, but the Little Mind would occupy you, so you could not be distracted. It would work crossword puzzles or play Solitaire, while the Big Mind would delve deep into the subjects I wanted to write about. So I keep the room. I have all the paintings and any decoration taken out of the room. I ask the management and house-keeping not to enter the room, just in case I’ve thrown a piece of paper on the floor, I don’t want it discarded. About every two months I get a note slipped under the door: “Dear Ms. Angelou, please let us change the linen. We think it may be moldy!” But I’ve never slept there, I’m usually out of there by 2. And then I go home and I read what I’ve written that morning, and I try to edit then. Clean it up. And that’s how I write books!

Do you still drink sherry when you write?

Not so much anymore. I stopped about two years ago.

(And this last bit, because I kind of love it)

What would you like carved onto your tombstone?

[Laughs] “I did my best, I hope you do the same.”

See the original article here: