Unofficial Playlist/Old Souls


0ec5e6b6a9fd960893ba80993bf75090.jpegBefore we delve into this musical post a big congrats goes out to Allison Maruska, winner of the 15th Scribble Challenge! Allison is the author of the runaway hit, The Fourth Descendant, YA novel, Drake and the Fliers, and the Project Renovatio Trilogy. Her entry to the last challenge of the season accrued the most votes ANY Scribble Challenge has ever received.


Check out her website, AllisonMaruska.com, for great flash fiction and writing tips. We’re all looking forward to your guest post here on Scribbles, Allison!


turntable-1337986_960_720.jpg


The hellions are finished school for the summer.


It’s great, because I can see them more often, and not great, because: writing.

There was a time I needed complete and utter silence to concentrate on my WIP. It was a BASTARD of a handicap. Life is loud. If ye authorly type-layers wait for optimal conditions to get anything done, the pace of ye work will inevitably suffer. That’s an old English proverb. Probably.

I had to train myself to write in a madhouse. My trick? Grabbing a set of headphones and subjecting the old eardrums to blaring music. As I tap away at my computer now, I’m happily listening to the Arctic Monkeys scream I Wanna be Yours while thirteen thousand of the hellions’ friends raid my cupboards for (crack) sugary snacks.

Over the years, the tracks I’ve listened to repeatedly while working on Old Souls have evolved into a playlist. While many budding authors dream of big-screen grandeur, it’s my hope that the story is developed into a Game of Thrones style television series one day, following the lives of my immortal characters back and forth through time.

For your listening pleasure, here are a few songs from the Old Souls soundtrack:

Lucien burns down The Gate:


Dreaming of Layla:


Doubts of sanity:

(Also the song I would use in my book trailer, if the world was a perfect place.)


Khai arrives at the hospital:


Layla talks about her time on Devon Island:


Rhiannon dies:


Lucien and Layla on the Carrier Pigeon:


The Stones attack Silas’ Ending Ceremony:


Lucien remembers pieces of his past:


Layla suffers in the Trogue Lair:


Layla is captured:


The Anunna leave Nigeria:


Morrigan kisses Lucien:


Lucien leaves for Ellis Fort:


The attack on Devon Island:


Morrigan’s revenge:


Catching up with Doctor Brauen:


End:


As I mentioned: The list is incomplete, but Wordpress doesn’t love all these YouTube links. It’s possible a more complete list will be posted when the book comes out.

For those who have been wondering, Old Souls edits are going well! Stay tuned to Scribbles for summer updates.


8 Things You Must Do BEFORE Buckling Down to Write that Novel


It happens all the time. People read a crappy novel and think, hey, I can do better than that. A fraction of those people have an idea for a plot that potential readers might find interesting—if it’s raining. And a Tuesday. Because people love reading on Tuesdays, especially if it’s less than seventy degrees and the wind is coming from due north.

emotions-371238_960_720

A fraction of that fraction of would-be authors decide to sit down and plot the idea out. A fraction of that fraction of that fraction is able to fend off the inevitable self-doubt monsters whispering that the book is going to suck, and churn out a reasonable first draft. And, a fraction of that fraction of that fraction, of THAT fraction is able to outlast the procrastinatory distractions offered by the interwebs, members of their real-life family, and pesky employment obligations to COMPLETE a (somewhat) viable book.

1nv0qjIf that book happens to be bumped into on Amazon or *gasp* picked up by someone in a bookstore, it has a one in one hundred (okay, thousand) shot at being purchased, and even less of a chance of being enjoyed . . . by anyone. Because you know, how often does the wind come in from the north while the skies unleash a bit of rain on a Tuesday?

Having nearly accomplished the arduous task of completing a novel myself, I have compiled a list of the top 8 things you should do BEFORE buckling down to write your first book.


And hey, in advance, you are welcome.


notebook-1194456_960_720

1)     Write your idea down on paper with a new, freshly sharpened pencil. It doesn’t matter it is has an eraser, because your idea is golden manna from heaven. You will make no mistakes here, friend. Be as vague or specific as you like. Already know how the book is going to end? Great. Write that down too. Look closely at your work. See the idea before you in all its splendor. Imagine the feelings of pride and accomplishment you will experience when you see this glorious idea come to light in the form of a book with your name on it.

2)     Make five copies. Smell the paper. Repeat the words, I am an author, over and over in your mind. Own that shit.

3)     Lift the first copy of your beautiful idea from the others, and crumple the paper into a ball. paper-1484048_960_720Listen to the sound of the paper crunching in your fist. Now, go outside. Light a match. And set your idea on fire.

4)    Drive the second copy of your idea to a farm. A hog farm is ideal. Rip your idea up into little tiny pieces. Rub the fragments of your idea all over your hair and your face. Take a deep breath. Inhale the scent of manure around you, and drop the idea into the slop pale to be consumed by the pigs.

5)      Rip the third copy of your idea into five perfectly even parts and mail a piece to Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, Mary Poppins, and just for kicks, one to Satan himself. Never check your mailbox again in case the idea is accidentally sent back.

6)     Pack a bag. Do not tell anyone where you are going in case they (foolishly) try to stop you. Go for a walk. Do not stop until you come to a volcano. Drop the fourth copy in.nuclear-2123685_960_720

7)       Take the fifth copy to the ocean. If you live somewhere like Manitoba (as I once did), a lake will do. If you live in the Sahara, have someone Fedex you a f^%@ing conch shell, all right? The point is to listen to the sound of the water. Be at one with the liquid around you.  Tune yourself into the miraculous substance that first birthed life onto our planet. Now, fold your idea into a paper boat, whisper, “It’s not f&@!ng worth it,” and set your idea free.


8)     IF at the end of all of this, you find the desire to flesh out your idea in the form of a book is still too impossible to ignore, take the original piece of paper on which you wrote your perfect, unspoiled, pristine, theoretically block-busting idea and look at it closely. Bask in the perfection of your penmanship and the wisdom behind your prose. Tape it to your computer. KNOW THAT COMPLETING YOR BOOK WILL NOT BE EASY.  But, you are a rockstar, on the cusp of greatness. Because, even if your novel does suck, it never sells, and people leave their homes in droves for the sole purpose of making fun of you, when you finish you will have accomplished something that only a very small percentage of humans on earth have done. Writing a book.

And that’s pretty fucking awesome.

May the Gods be with you.


Chapter 35, A Time Capsule


q1Right now I’m editing Chapter 35 of Old Souls. That means I’m about 90,000 words deep in what currently stands as a 138,146 word novel. This isn’t the first editing run for Old Souls, and it certainly won’t be the last. Likely, the book will require two more passes before the manuscript is forwarded (again) to my critique partners, and yet another draft before it goes to betas. The good news is that each editing endeavor becomes substantially easier than the last. As every gaping plot-hole gets filled, the characters become sharper, and the stakes more clearly defined.

And that acceleration of pace is more than welcome, because the last time I edited Chapter 35 was in 2015.

The first time I saw that “previously opened” date on my file, I was a little floored. How is it possible that so much time has passed?

1jy7vl

We all know that writing a book is hard. Writing a fantasy book can be even harder—much harder than I ever suspected. Typically, fantasy novels are longer than books in other genres (which is great; because 138,146 words). Not to mention (except I’m mentioning it) fantasy novels play by different rules. Case in point: Old Souls is about a man who forgot his past lives, and the “great family” who claim he abandoned after a massacre ten thousand years before. So, reincarnation rules must be made. Worlds must be built, and details must be maintained throughout the manuscript to create a cohesive, believable story.

While digging into this particularly dust-riddled section of my story this week, I realized that allowing work to rest for two years had created a sort of time capsule of my previous strengths and weaknesses. The last time I edited Chapter 35 was at a time in my writerly journey when I’d obsessed over the writing tips and tricks I’d picked up in critique groups. And, it showed. The draft had become clunky. Seeing how this obsession had affected the story led me to reflect on how I had grown as a writer since then.

6a9252e5fdc632e1f48cbc9fe22647e8When I first started to write Old Souls, I obsessed over the sentences. I wanted to write beautiful words, and subsequently thesaurus-ed the shi@% out of my work. As a direct result, shooting out the first chapter of my “beautiful book” took forever roughly a year, and the chapter was absolute garbage.

To stand a hope of writing “The End” I needed help. So, I to turned to writerly books and blogs in search of answers. Everyone seemed to say the same thing: just write. Write for yourself. Write to get something, anything, on the computer screen. So that’s what I did. And when I finished, I had a rambling string of words which no one–including me at times–stood a chance of understanding.

But, I had created something from nothing. Which was outstanding, even if that something needed a LOT of work.

I found that to improve on what I had, I needed to follow an outline. Many writers “pants,” their scenes, writing at whim. My whims had whimmed up a mess. I bought several plotting books and selected my favorite outline for Old Souls: writersjourney3rddropThe Writer’s Journey, by Christopher Vogler, an outline based on the ideas brought forward by Joseph Campbell in, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. And while some writers might argue using an outline inhibits their creative freedom, I found structuring my story within the steps of the Hero’s Journey to be infinitely liberating.

By the time I completed the draft of my story utilizing Vogler’s words of wisdom, I had been working on the manuscript for years. To be fair, I had also brought a couple hellions into the world and moved across the country. There had been large gaps of time where I never worked on the book at all.

Throughout all the time I worked on Old Souls, I hadn’t shown a word to anyone. Except for four people, no one knew I was writing a book. I was fiercely self-conscious. But, the time had come to ask for help. I found a small critique group based out of Western Canada; and when I outgrew that one, a larger critique group, where I met my writerly besties. At first, I soaked up every bit of advice offered, ecstatic that other writers were taking time from their own work to improve mine.

And that’s where I left Chapter 35, two years ago.

Since then, my writerly abilities have grown. And, a lot of that growth can be summed up in one word: Confidence.

recite-kcs23y.png

Anyone who’s written anything decent can tell you writing is hard. But, the hardest part isn’t learning to choose the active voice over the passive. It doesn’t have anything to do with dialogue tags, showing vs. telling, or the multi-faceted characterization of villains. The hardest thing about writing is trusting your voice and your story.

It’s a truth that packed a punch when I saw Chapter 35 was probably better before I started taking advice. There are no dialogue tags, there is no passive voice, and no adverbs. But, the story has a stuttered flow, and the action tags read like the characters are participating in a play instead of a book.

So, what has my time capsule taught me? A good story uses writing rules as an aid, not a crutch. Yes, excessive passivity is cumbersome to read. He said, she said can become annoying. The overuse of adverbs is slovenly. These are terrific guidelines. But sometimes, to paint the best pictures, we have to go outside the lines. What has to matter the most–before anything else–is the story. Because, your reader will forgive almost any “mistake” if the story is good enough.

quotescover-JPG-86.jpg


 

Editing Woes

God help me, editing can be a painful process. Editing a lengthily, complex book (that has been edited several times already) can make you want to stab yourself in face with a soldering iron.chri.png

Characters who were removed on the third round of edits might poke their little heads out to fu@# your day in the eighth. You may come to find the escape route you so meticulously mapped out for your characters eleven months ago is as plausible as Trump getting into the White House. (WAIT A MINUTE–you mean that actually happened??) The groundwork for plotlines you thought of while working in later chapters must now be staged from the BLOODY beginning. Editing a book has become a task of flipping between pages to make sure that everything connects in a cohesive, well written (or even vaguely entertaining) story.

And, sometimes you open the file for Chapter 24 to find that every word is garbage. Did you actually write this, or did a small child with weak wrists hack into your computer and delete your glorious, errorless prose to replace them with this complete and utter trash?

Sometimes it seems like there is no hope.kuyc

Sometimes you might show your work to someone you respect. Sometimes they tell you it’s okay to give up and start something new.

And now you have permission.

Now you may give up.

Let’s face it, kids. This is the hard part.

It’s important to remember that nothing worth doing is ever easy. And, because I am not-so-secretly actually talking about me, today I am reminding MYSELF that the only way a book gets written is word by word. 1f89qlStephen King puts his pants on one leg at a time. The sun always shines after the rain.  A diamond only forms with a lot of pressure. Yahda, yahda, yahda.

If you think you have found the book you truly want to write, the godforsaken TANGLE of yarn you want to weave into a story, be prepared to fight for it. And then, be prepared to find out that the only person you really have to fight for it is yourself: the side of yourself that is scared of a lot of effort . . . and the overwhelming possibility of failure.

images2hkv99rn

Shut up, Batman.

It’s okay to take a break to write a blog (like this one), apply for a grant, read a book, attend a conference, and mess around on Twitter. They’re great ways to give your mind a rest. The human brain is an organ that often works like a muscle . . . right?

It needs rest days.

At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

So, (maybe) today I’m doing myself a favor. I’m taking a little time to recalibrate. After I come home from work and the kids are in bed, I may even drink.

*coughs*

Heavily.

Not that that’s a solution. But it makes me feel better. And tomorrow I’ll start writing again, one sentence at a time. ‘Cause love it or lump it, THIS is the stupid, complex, lengthily book I want to write.


 

 

What’s up with Writers Conferences?


Last Wednesday I woke up in the wee hours in the morning, caught a quick shower, and made my way to the airport. Three planes and a very stern immigration officer later, I stepped out of Orlando International and into what all Floridians seem to refer to as “Paradise.”

They aren’t far off.
But, I didn’t leave my hellions at home with the ol’ hubster for the beautiful palm trees, the perfect weather, or the practically tax-free American wine that flows like milk and honey.

The main reason for going?


12661895_10154013026448083_422715894567006278_n


A writing conference.

The great Allison Maruska and I were invited to Florida by Dan Alatorre. Dan a good friend of Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins, a great critique partner, and also the best-selling author of stack of books that are killing it on Amazon right now. Actually, Allison’s books are doing pretty furr-eak-ing amazing, too. Given the opportunity to chill out in the Florida sunshine with these two . . . who could possibly say no?

untitled.pngNot me.

And so, I got to partake in my very first writers conference. Over the course of the next couple of days, I participated in a plethora of workshops that ran from 6am till 9 at night. The conference was attended by agents, critically acclaimed and best-selling authors, blogging phenoms, and beginners.

Now, I am what many would refer to as a self-taught author. I decided to write a novel on a whim without having ANY idea how hard writing a godforsaken book actually is. (Did I mention it’s hard?) That said, it doesn’t mean that I went about learning how to write in a half-@s$ed daze. As a fiercely self-conscious/perfectionist/control freak, I hit google up for writing tips with the tenacity of a trick-or-treating eight year old. ocd-2I bought eleventy-billion writing books, and then I bought the audible versions so I could learn about writing (and torture my children) while folding laundry, washing the floor, and while getting ready for work. I joined multiple critique groups. When I ran into a problem with my story–be it grammatical, or to do with structure, plot, or outline–I was able to figure it out pretty quickly. (Or I just asked Dan.) I wrote short stories for competitions, and eventually sold articles to websites . . . for money.

I learned the skills to teach myself and then taught myself. And, immersing myself in a hotel filled with seven hundred authory types on a quest to broaden our writerly horizons has helped me realize something. I know a hell of a lot more about writing than I’ve given myself credit for.

That said, a fair number of workshops at the Florida Writer’s Conference were geared toward newbies.

The beauty of the schedule was that several workshops ran at the same time, so Dan, Allison, and I were able to sit through bits and pieces of what we found applicable.

By the time the end of the weekend rolled around, I found that I benefited greatly from the very act of immersing myself in author culture. As writers, we are responsible for plugging our own work. leather-bound-booksAt first, we’re the only person who CAN. It’s hard in the beginning. But, when you surround yourself with like-minded authory individuals . . . it gets easier. Because of the conference, I was able to identify a weakness–talking about Old Souls–and overcome it. I learned the importance of talking about my book with finesse. I wrote down and memorized a blurb to recite when people ask me about it. And, I started work on a killer elevator pitch. Not that I EVER plan on running into Eric Simonoff here. Prince Edward Island is rather un-surprisingly agent free . . . not to mention elevator limited. Which is great because sometimes I get nervous.

face

GAAAWWWDDD!!

Looking back,  I don’t think attending a writers conference is crucial to authorly growth. But, talking to other writers is 100%, absolutely essential. It’s important to surround yourself with people who have attained the kind of career you want. So, find a place where you can submerge yourself in a pool of writerly kinship.

And–if you do go to a conference, it should probably be somewhere like Florida


A Quitter’s Conundrum

evictionSometimes you have to put a pin in it. Plan to come back to it later, lower the position of your “dream” from your theoretical tack board of priorities and get your real-life shit together.

Over the years, I’ve done it a lot: ‘Cause baby, the act of writing your first book ain’t gonna raise your kids, and it sure as HELL ain’t gonna pay your bills.

I’ve been writing my debut novel a FURREAKING long time. The idea for the story came just after my first son was born. And yeah, he’s ten. I won’t sit here and tell you it’s because Old Souls is going to be the next War and Peace. It’s not going to be the next Interview with the Vampire or American Gods. Sometimes when I read the manuscript, I wonder if my beloved book even deserves to be published at all.

So what’s taken so long?

In the last ten years I’ve worked hard to contribute financially to my growing family. My husband and I are now raising not just one, but THREE dastardly little hellions. My stepdaughters have grown into women.

Life happened.

The book waited.

And this summer, for the very first time, I thought about giving up completely.richard-simmons

I accepted another promotion at work. I turned my back on all things Old Souls, ignoring my social media accounts, Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins, and even my critique partners. I shut everything down . . . and worked at work. After all, it took years to write what I have. If I kept going the way I was, it might take years to edit. It begged the question: Was there any point in going on at all?

paulThe interesting thing is, without the dream of getting Old Souls published to keep me going I became surprisingly unhappy. Finding time to write has always been a struggle between a busy work and family life, but it turns out that not writing at all is . . . downright depressing.

I love to write. When I “grow up,” writing is what I want to do.

The moment I came to this realization, allowing myself to feel it in “the very cockles of my heart,” (as my ever so witty momma would say), I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. It’s okay to have dreams. It’s okay to make sacrifices for your dreams. For the last ten years, I’ve put a pin in my writing to make room for real life. But one day, if I want writing to be my real life, I’m going to have to sacrifice some of what I have going on now.

So, I’ve taken a step back at work. It seems that whether of not I’ll ever make $$$ writing, it’s what I want to do, and funnily enough–stopping it altogether is what made me realize that. After all this time, I still love my book. I still love the premise. And I still want other people to love it too. So here I am, back on the blogging train. Back in the writing game. Back in the Imma going to get published one day rollercoaster ride.


So let’s DO this thing.



 

Author Brand Building


In the age of self-published authors, where books are everywhere, no time is too early to start thinking about how to promote ourselves. claireEven if some fancy-shmancy publishing house scoops up your manuscript like the diamond in the rough it is, they’ll want to know how YOU’RE planning to contribute to the marketing.

That’s why it’s so important to build a following of people who TRUST us . . . who feel like they know us.

Blogs are a part of that. The way we present ourselves as authors is a part of that. Book covers, author tag-lines, and an easily recognizable brand are parts of that too.

Many authors write in a wide variety of genres: typing out whatever story they’re feeling in the moment. THAT’S OKAY. Because, despite what most people think, writing is hard. It’s a commitment to stick a story out for a year, or two, or even ten. If an author is feeling a pull toward another genre once their project is complete, then who are we to say “Hold on there, Tex: I thought you were a romance writer.”

quotescover-JPG-73The thing about flip-flopping between genres is this: it’s going to mean a lot more effort in the promotion arena. Each time these rogue authors come out with a new book, they’ll have to begin their promotions almost from scratch, seeking out the type of readers who’ll love their latest work.

Alternately, writers who focus on one genre can piggy-back off of the success of their last book (and get more reward for their promotion efforts) by building a die-hard readership within that genre.

This is the stuff I thought of before I started writing Old Souls.

I fought against writing the book for years, but, the story haunted me. So, by the time I sat down to write I had a plan. That plan: to build a world where my characters could get into a whole lot of trouble . . . for as many books as I want.

When Old Souls is laid down to “rest” next month, I’ll start the sequel. It’s a bit of a gamble without knowing whether the first book will sell, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take. 222The idea behind this series is good. Not just good, but great. All I need to do is to learn to write the books at the level the idea deserves. In time I’ll have several books, all within the same world, each one of their successes piggy-backing off the last. And, in twenty-five years, I already know how I’m going to revive the furreaking thing.

That piggy-back marketing is part of what contributed to the success of Star Wars, Harry Potter, and of course, my beloved Vampire Chronicles. It’s what’s going to make Old Souls.


I talked about author branding and the importance of Swagger here. Last post, I talked about what it means to be a writer and why you should hold your head up high, no matter where you are in your journey. If you want to BE a success, it’s crucial to approach your work as if you already ARE. It doesn’t mean getting so cocky we stop improving. It means we  need to approach our work with the attitude that we’re creating an empire.)


Even if your writing suffers a little “Genre ADD,” (a term I stole from the great and powerful Allison Maruska), there are still many ways to brand our collection of work to establish a feeling of continuity within our readers.quotescover-JPG-11

One great way is by finding a font you LOVE. Spend time on picking it out. Use it on the covers of your books, website, and business cards. That font needs to be on anything and everything associated with your work. When your readers pick up your product, you want them to instantly recognize that font whether they realize it or not.

If the packaging is too different, you run the risk of:

A) the reader not recognizing your work

B) The reader thinking your book is too different from the last book they read (and loved) of yours to give it another go.

The type of font you choose is crucial. Look at STEPHEN KING. His name is always in caps. Same with JAMES PATTERSON. The print of both authors is ominous, letting you know exactly what kind of story you’re in for when you pick up one of their books. Despite that obvious similarity, the print used by the two authors are still easily distinguished from each other.


Another way to showcase who you are as an author is to build an author tagline. Here are a couple examples of the “bragging rights” version:

quotescover-JPG-95quotescover-JPG-77

If, like me, you don’t have those bragging rights (yet) you need to think of the types of writing you hope to include in your collection, the subjects you’ll address, the kind of stories you want to tell, or themes. Think about the type of customers you want to attract, the spin-off books you might publish, and/or the values you want to promote. If none of your books have a common thread, if you have “Genre ADD,” then your tagline can be about your voice. The way you tell a story like NO ONE ELSE can.


bAuthor branding is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, because despite all of the care I’ve put into branding the content of my books, the image I’m projecting is not quite right. I know this because when people read my work, one of the most common things they’ll say is, “Wow, that was dark, Jenny. NOT what I was expecting.”

After a quick look around the blog, it’s easy to see how these previously trusting souls who sat down to read my work were misguided into thinking I was about to tell them a heart warming tale about cupcakes. When people look at my picture, they probably expect me to sell them gluten-free cookies. Organic apple juice. Maybe a nice pair of warm and fuzzy socks.

anne

BUT, my fiction is kinda dark. And it’s not going to change anytime soon. It’s what I love to read. It’s what I love to write.

Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins started on a whim. Nonetheless, it’s been a wild ride. In the last couple months, traffic stats have surpassed every single one of my expectations. Last October, Anne Rice–one of my all-time favorite authors EVER–promoted my blog on her Facebook page to well over a million fans, sending a tsunami of people to check things out themselves. That, to me, was a pretty freaking huge deal. The blog has been a learning experience. In the short time it’s been up and running, it’s evolved substantially, which is great, because at in the beginning I didn’t have a hot clue what I was doing.

BUT because my fiction is a little dark, the website is going to have to be tweaked, subtly letting people know what they’re in for when the day comes that they are finally able to pick up one of MY books. An author tagline seems like a good place to start, and will be one of the changes I’ll implement across my social media outlets over the course of the next couple of weeks. If you look closely, you may notice a few other changes as well. It’s time that the way I’m presented as an author evolves.

And hey, change is good. Without change, without a little evolution, this is how Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins would still appear on cell phone screens:crop2


What do you think about Author Branding? How does your genre affect your author website and social media outlets?