Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Focus? Or Scatter?

I've had theory for years that people are either a "focus" or a "scatter". Now, I don't mean scatter brained, although that can happen ;). I’m talking about the way people work and function in their lives. 

Focus people usually have a very narrow and intense way of doing things. In school they often excel at whatever topic they study. My former thesis adviser is an excellent example of a focus. When I met her she was only 27 and was already a tenured professor at a University. She also had spent time with the World Health Organization in Geneva. At 27. Scared the crap out of me for reasons you'll see very quickly.

I, on the other hand, am an example of a scatter (stop laughing folks ;)). Someone as intensely aimed at their area of study like my thesis adviser was a bit unnerving for me. Scatters find so many things interesting that we rarely get to the level of intensity that a focus does. The whole "ooooooh!  What's THAT?!" can really cause a crimp in our plans for world domination.

Both types in the extreme can be problematic. Scatters may fail to reach their potential if they can't put some blinders on and focus on the task or goal. I have been mostly able to combat this with my writing, but only in the last eight or so years. Before that I would write for stretches, then get distracted and wander somewhere else.

The focus folks can miss out on many things in life if they become too obsessed with a single subject. I'm thinking my former adviser did NOT have a rip roaring fun time in college-LOL!

But both types have strengths as well. If the object of the focus’s intense dedication falls through, they may find themselves at a loss. But the scatter can pick up and find another topic of interest. However, the focus can get to a level of depth within a subject that would be very difficult for a scatter.

Like all personality traits- my little scatter to focus category isn't extreme. Just like most folks are on a scale for introvert verses extrovert, people range on this one as well. 

Now how does all this relate to writing, you ask? It impacts both your characters as well as you the author. Understanding where on the sliding scale of focus your characters are can help you keep their behavior consistent and believable.  And it's always handy to have another personality aspect to play with ;).

Understanding your own position on the scale can help you keep your writing form in top shape. You need to understand how your mind and personality work best so that you can keep moving forward in your writing career. Now it doesn’t mean that a scatter can’t become more focused and visa versa- but before anything can change, you have to understand what’s there to begin with. True for our characters and ourselves.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Cover Reveal for Pets in Space

Cover reveal
Nope, I'm not in this one, but some awesome authors and writer friends are! Please make sure to add this collection to your "gotta buy" books for fall!

Pets in Space
Out October 11th, 2016

Even an alien needs a pet…
Join the adventure as nine pet loving sci-fi romance authors take you out of this world and pull you into their action-packed stories filled with suspense, laughter, and romance. The alien pets have an agenda that will capture the hearts of those they touch. Follow along as they work side by side to help stop a genetically-engineered creature from destroying the Earth to finding a lost dragon; life is never the same after their pets decide to get involved. Can the animals win the day or will the stars shine just a little less brightly?
New York Times, USA TODAY, Award Winning, and Bestselling authors have nine original, never-released stories that will capture your imagination and help a worthy charity. Come join us as we take you on nine amazing adventures that will change the way you look at your pet!

10% of profits from the first month go to Hero Dogs raises and trains service dogs and places them free of charge with US Veterans to improve quality of life and restore independence.
By S.E. Smith (New York Times/USA TODAY Best Selling Author)
Matrix Roma is a member of the elite Zion military Cyborg Protection Unit. Matrix gets more than he bargains for when his cyborg partner, a hybrid Wolfhound named K-Nine, goes missing and ends up finding a mate for Matrix in the middle of a deadly mission on an unknown planet called Earth.
By Susan Grant (New York Times Best Selling, USA TODAY, and RITA Award Winning Author)
Interplanetary Marine Lt. Lukas Frank has a lot in common with a street dog named Bang-Bang; they both started off as scrappy orphans fighting to survive—and beat the odds. Things change when Bang-Bang leads Lukas to starpilot Capt. Carlynn Riga. The tough war hero learns what it means to surrender — his heart. Lukas’s struggles with PTSD threaten to tear the three of them apart, but nothing threatens them more than when Carlynn goes missing on a mission. Can a scarred marine and his unlikely canine partner find Carlynn and bring her home, or will he lose everything he’s finally found worth fighting for?
By Cara Bristol (USA TODAY Best Selling Author)
Memory: intact. Cognitive function: enhanced. Emotion: erased. After becoming a cyborg, Captain Dante Stone didn’t think he’d ever feel again, until a traumatized young woman and a ball of synthetic fur named Sparky helped him to love.
By Veronica Scott
Cargo Master Owen Embersson is shocked when the Nebula Zephyr’s ship’s cat and her alien sidekick, Midorri, alert him to the presence of a stowaway. He has no idea of the dangerous complications to come – nor does he anticipate falling hard for the woman whose life he now holds in his hands. Life aboard the Nebula Zephyr has just become more interesting – and deadly.
By Pauline Baird Jones
Emma Standish didn’t think her day could get any worse. Her dad is marrying his boss, her dragon suddenly came back talking and typing, and it’s her fault the Earth, or at least ten square miles of Texas, is going to be destroyed. That’s what happens when you forget something very, very important. Luckily for her, she’s got the love of her life that she can’t remember and her dragon by her side. Who needs to worry when you’re having a day like this?
By Laurie A. Green
Navigator Taro Shall has a mission no one wants – find a way to eradicate snakes on a starship. He never expects to find the answer to his problem in a charming street vendor named Adini. His already unusual mission becomes more complicated when he suddenly acquires an adorable StarDog that soon sweeps him and Adini into the maw of a brewing insurrection.
By Alexis Glynn Latner
Young Roboticist Ten Jaxdown has to deploy, and possibly sacrifice, the swarm of investigative robots that he has invented and cares about more than anything else in the star system. It may be the only hope for those depending on him and his robots to save them. Yet, even as frantic preparations for the unprecedented deep-space rescue mission are set in motion, it could all be threatened by sabotage.

Anastasia Steed is an intrepid young mission designer. She steps forward with an idea that can improve the odds of the mission. Neither she nor Ten expect the assistance they receive from a very unusual pet. A pet that will bring together two alienated human beings who didn’t realize they needed each other. Can Ten and Anastasia discover who is behind the sabotage, save the mission, and discover what is evolving between them? With a little bit of unusual help, anything is possible.
By Lea Kirk
Graig Roble is the Senior Commander of security for the Guardian Fleet. His expertise as a weapons specialist and combat master is his world, what he was born to do – or so he thought until he finds his resolve and focus inexplicably wavering. Even returning to his position aboard the Atlantis can’t save him; if anything, it has left him questioning his own motives. He never thought that could happen until he met Simone Campbell.

Simone’s focus is on her home world – Earth. She thought her life was full with her research as a botanist. After all, she always believed that helping the people of her world become self-sufficient should take all of her concentration – except it doesn’t. There is one man that keeps pulling her attention, and her heart, away from her job.
Graig’s gift of a puppy to keep her company does more than that, it keeps him in her dreams. How can such a simple gift bring her comfort and make her long for more? Graig and Simone are about to find out that sometimes love can blossom from the smallest, furriest ties.
By Carysa Locke
Teegan’s job as a hunter is to track down the Talented, those driven insane by their gifts. She and Ember, her psychically gifted fox, have tracked dozens of people for Cole, the man who works to rehabilitate and recover these troubled souls. When one of Cole’s most dangerous patients escapes, Teegan and Ember are on a hunt that could prove fatal if she doesn’t keep her focus on her mission. Unfortunately, Cole is proving one distraction that might make this her last hunt if she can’t do that.

Can Teegan keep her heart and mind in the game long enough to save an entire planet’s population, or will her distraction lead to heartache – and possibly death for everyone?
Sign up here to get more information and make sure you don't miss this book!  

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Right character- wrong story

Sometimes you have an idea for great character in your book. Maybe you already wrote them in, maybe they're something that just popped up as you're writing (or plotting for you plotters ;)) and you think they are awesome!

Then they just seem to clunk around in your story. You know, like when your washing machine is out of whack and you get that thunk, thunk, thunk as it tries to get back into balance?

Yeah....sometimes writing feels like that. Sometimes READING feels like that.  Since none of us as writers want to do that to our readers, and as readers we don't want a good book damaged by that thunking noise, it is important to do a catch and release on those characters.

For me, it's usually more of a reduction of a character, and mostly minor ones at that. Since I am a serious pantser, I often don't know who is going to stick around for the long haul of my minor characters. The bigger ones are fine, primary, secondary- yeah--I KNOW them.

I just relocated one of my secondary characters.

Now, the character in question is from one of my unfinished books, an epic fantasy. She was an important character to the story (or so I thought at the time) but her section never really fit. Since that book is waiting with the other half-books (and two completed ones) for time to finish, I wasn't really worried about it. I figured I could save her somehow, make her work.

But yesterday she popped up in my head while writing The Sapphire Manticore (aka Book Four of The Lost Ancients). I had a type of character I knew was going to be in this book, but hadn't fleshed them out at all (pantser, remember?), then while working on the draft yesterday morning I started writing her voice...and it was the troublesome character from the unfinished Epic Fantasy!  

I think she'll fit much better here, and has already gotten to know the drunken faeries (apparently her long lost sister was semi-responsible for them meeting Taryn--but that's another story ;)).

So, if you have a character who you LOVE, but they just don't fit in that book--remove them, but hold onto them. They may just need to be relocated (although I'm not completely sure she didn't just relocate herself ;)).

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

#IWSG- Writing with a day job

Welcome to another first Wednesday of the month and the Insecure Writer's Support Group!  If you know a writer, chances are they are insecure-come join us!

Today I'm talking about why having a day job can be very helpful for a writer. Now, first let me say, if I could afford to not have a day job-I would. Even with all the cool things I'm about to mention. I would be a stay at home writer in a heartbeat. But, that's not my situation--so I work and write.

Most writers don't make enough to support themselves and their families. Many of the ones who are stay at home writers have a spouse who can support them-or are receiving retirement benefits. Yes, this does mean that most of the fine folks you see in your favorite bookstore are not supporting themselves from the written word. 

But, that's not all bad.

I have come to realize how helpful my day job has been for my writing:

1) Stability- I work Monday- Friday, same 40 hours each week. I know how much money I'll get each month, and that I have health insurance. I KNOW what I need to do to be successful at my job. There isn't the guesswork of how much I'll make and if I'm doing something wrong.

2) Support outside of family-I am lucky in that I really have a great group of folks I work with. They may not understand my mad need to write, but they support it. My boss set up my very first booksigning/ book party, in the lobby of our office before hours. It was wonderful, amazing, and I will never forget it.

3) It uses another part of my brain. I've always been more right brained- my GRE scores were very high for verbal, average for math, but high for logic.My day job is extremely left brain- very much logic and math. It is so different from writing that it acts as a mental refresher. I'm excited to write in the morning before work, lunch time, after work, because it's so different.

I'm sure there are more, but this gets the idea across. My having to have a day job has actually made me a better writer. For those of you thinking you can't have a writing career while you still work a day job, I say GO FOR IT!  You'll have to work your butt off, it's akin to having two full-time jobs, but do it.

You'll be surprised at the results.

Happy IWSG day!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Comic-Con Brain

It's the first night of Comic-Con International, San Diego!  

Yes, that is the real entire name of this mega event, I sometimes forget that just saying "Comic-Con" might confuse some folks. For me, the words comic and con combined will always be THIS one. The big kahuna, the 400,000 pound gorilla, THE Con.

I've been going to this con for 24 years-yeah, I know, longer than some of you have been alive ;). To say it has changed in that time is an understatement.

My first year a coworker gave me a ticket, so I wandered down there. It had just moved to the convention center, but our center was a lot smaller then. I had no idea what I was doing, so just roamed around the floor for a few hours, bought stuff, then left thinking, "well, that was okay".

I didn't even realize there had been panels going on upstairs!

But I went back the next year, and so on. You used to be able to buy your tickets for the next year at the current con- in fact for many years, those poor folks at the "next year's badges" booth would get super excited when anyone came up!

However, the point of this post was "Con Brain" (and clearly it's already hitting me!). There is SOOOOOOOOOOO much stuff to see at this monster event that pretty much you just need to aim for your favorite 10% and hope for the best. (If you're a newbie- heed my words!)

Even with knowing I will only see a tiny amount of what I'd love to see (and all the planning in the world never helps me), my brain is already bouncing around like an escaped pokemon on speed. I hardly slept last night--in part because it's hot as hell and I don't have a/c--but also because I am so excited about Comic-Con! Like an 8 year old the night before their first trip to Disneyland.

Not only is this my annual mingling with my people, this is also my first year as a professional and my first year SIGNING my books at Comic-Con. My books will be mingling with all that insane energy!

Soooo, my brain is pretty much shutting down for the next few days. Hopefully it will stay aware long enough to get me home and back, attend panels I want, eat, to the bookstore booth for the signing, etc. But pretty much, I'm already fried :).

And so dang happy to be so!  If you're going- have a great time! If you see me, say hi, then wait a few minutes for my brain to come back ;). If you're not going to Comic-Con, what are some of your favorite geek events to go to?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Being SpongeBob

Creative types need to mentally refuel. Well, since I believe all folks have some creative aspect to their psyche--that means we all do :). We need to relax, explore, absorb, to restock that well of goodness known as our creative brain.

For me as a writer, one of those mental refuelling events has always been Comic-Con International, San Diego, AKA- the big kahuna. Now when I say always, I mean for over the last 20 years, so pretty much, a very long time. 

The energy at Comic-Con is unparalleled by anything I've ever felt. Even at other comic conventions, this one is the most powerful. Getting overwhelmed is a given, but so is absorbing a ton of varied creative energy. Writers (and yeah! I'm even signing this year- shameless plug- Thursday, July 21st at 11 am booth 1119!). artists, actors, directors, gamers, coplayers, you name it, and they are probably there somewhere. I end up exhausted, but also motivated creatively.

But this year, not only do I have CC, I also have Romance Writers of America Nationals this week here in town! Yes, I technically write fantasy, SF, etc...but I do have romantic elements and RWA is the BEST writing organization around. They know their stuff and they know how to support writers at all levels.

This will be my first RWA national Conference, but the variety of workshops look amazing. Lots of folks go to this to mingle and network, I'm kinda shy and that's not in my wheelhouse. I'm just going to be a giant sponge (hence the title of this blog- get it? Hehehe). I plan on absorbing all of the smarts crammed into that giant hotel, and steal them back home.

The best advantage? They are both local for me, so I can sleep in my own bed each night :). Sure, staying in the hotels downtown would have been fun, but I couldn't swing it. I realize not everyone is lucky enough to be near major events like these- but find somewhere, sometime, to go recharge. 

So for over a week, I am going to be surrounded by thousands of crazy creative and talented folks. I'll be watching, observing, taking notes, and absorbing.  So, if you're at one of these events and see a "Sponge-Bob" sitting in the corner, say hi :).

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

IWSG: Benchmarks and insecurity.

First off, welcome to another installment of The Insecure Writer's Support Group!  The first Wednesday of each month, writers from all over gather and share our fears- join us!

Today I'm writing about writing benchmarks and the fear and terror that goes with them. 

I've been writing for a very long time, but just got serious the past 8-10 years. My world changed when I self-published my first book, The Glass Gargoyle, March 2015. Since then I've published the next two in that series, and the first one in my space opera series- Warrior Wench. That's four books in 14 months while having a full-time day job. I'm proud of that. Those books weren't slapped up there, I had a lot of professional help on them.

I've now had all four books at various times be on various different top 100 lists on Amazon. My sales are creeping upwards. (Yeah, not quitting that day job any time soon though. ;))

I'm moving forward. Slowly, but moving.

But I am constantly fighting fears, demons, and mental naysayers. 

When you're an independent author, you don't get the reinforcement the traditionally published authors do. No one is hanging out in your corner, handing you the water bottle and the mouth piece so you can go back out there and continue the fight(at least not professionally). The only shield we have against the horrific self doubt is us. 

The benchmarks of "success" are difficult to define--well, not if you're a NYT bestselling author, supporting your family through your writing--but for the rest of us they are. I count every single book sold as a success--the big authors are counting in the thousands.

You work so hard to get a book out, then you watch the sales slow down, but it's okay, soon you have another book to come out, then those sales slow down. Reviews don't come. Or when they do come there are some real stinkers in there. Getting on lists is good- falling off of them is not so good.

Other authors around you seem to be doing so much better, and when you listen to them, you wonder what you've done wrong. Trying to figure out why sales spiked (a great feeling) or crashed (again-not so much) is a game that will drive anyone mad.

I'm at the point where I feel okay with saying I'm a writer. I'm not sure how to convince myself that I'm a successful writer.

(And yes, the logical part of my brain is saying to be proud, define my own success, enjoy what I've done so far- but sometimes my little fear-animal-brain just isn't listening ;)).