Antagonizing

Okay, let me back up slightly and preface this by saying that I am by no means a Cardcaptor Sakura expert.  I’ve seen a number of episodes, some when they first kicked around in the U.S. and now again that my son has discovered it, but I haven’t read the manga, nor have I seen every episode of the show.  So, bearing that in mind…

One of the things that I started thinking hard about after the Cardcaptor Sakura exhibit a few weeks back is the difference between a villain and an antagonist.  See, when I think of conflict in an adventure, I think of a bad guy.  Sauron in Lord of the Rings, and each of his lesser henchdudes.  Harry Potter has Voldemort,  his minions, and all the Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers.  Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Sailor Moon all have their respective Evil Queens… Basically, pick an adventure story at about any level of telling and there’s a villain actively taking steps to keep Our Hero down.  It’s one of the things we all look for: the Thanoses and Poison Ivys what have yous to defeat to prevent the end of the world as we know it.

Except… villains turn out to be entirely unnecessary.  Sakura ends up having to save the world— well, her part of it at least— every week.  There’s nobody sending monsters against her, no master force behind this week’s problem.  Each card she comes across is simply causing problems thanks to their nature, not because they’ve been sent to eliminate those pesky heroes.  Nope.  They’re just unruly magical sprites causing trouble, and Sakura needs to clean up.

They’re antagonists, not villains.  They provide a challenge to work against, and butt heads on occasion, but without any grander plan or deliberate malice.  Simply conflicting goals. The realization was one where I had to yell at myself for a little while.  Of course, you don’t need to have a grand villain orchestrating everything, every time.

Sometimes, you just need a good puzzle or a magical force that doesn’t understand that they’re wrecking house just by playing tag.  So.  What’s your favorite fictional obstacle?

 

While I’m trying to nap

Insomnia sucks, especially when I’m too busy to take a dang nap.  Here’s something that Finding Insight E-bookmight tide you over until I get back to functional:  Finding Insight is up for pre-order!  This one’s about Sebastian, and his new friend Gabriel, who isn’t a spirit but still has a few secrets of his own.  The special launch price is $0.99 though the first week of July.

Sebastian is determined to keep his people safe.  Even those who don’t know they have magic.

Sebastian Russell is fiercely protective of his family, and of the secrets of his community at the Village at Rancho San Calafia apartments.  Still reeling from the violent betrayal of his human brother, he continues to do regular patrols around the area, looking out for anything that might threaten those he loves.

One night he stumbles across a young man sleeping in a makeshift camp at the entrance of a nearby cave.  The boy is plagued by nightmares and looks far too thin.  After a chance encounter with the boy during daylight hours, Sebastian realizes that there is far more to young Gabriel than first appears.  And when the two people harassing the young man turn out to be Hunters, Sebastian has some quick thinking to do.  Not only do the Hunters want Gabe’s special skills for themselves, but once they have him, they will use him to hunt down and kill every non-human spirit they can reach.

Gear ratio

As I mentioned last week, I’ve been trying to sort myself into some vague semblance of organized.  I know, I know, it’s a bit of a dream, but even a little effort can make a huge difference.  But there’s so much to do and so many different ways to do most of it, and so many ideas and projects and schedules and people to work with and… Well, it’s pretty overwhelming.

gnome-garden-decoration-dwarf-littleSo… last week my anxiety started to get the better of me, and I spent most of my morning chatting with my husband over the internet.  Unfortunately, since he already lives in Tokyo, he had to go to bed at some point though I’m pretty sure he stayed up late for me.  So I was left to myself around lunchtime and my brain started spinning out of control.

So.  Many.  Projects! Holycrap!!

And each project has a damn to-do list as long as my arm: get an outline started, get the thing written, get it edited and critiqued and edited again, get a cover for it, figure out a title and a blurb… And that’s just writing the stories.  There’s a laundry list of behind the

5102859889_0e03eba831_b

Photo credit: rachelkramerbussel.com on Visualhunt / CC BY

scenes stuff going on too, and the move and general day-to-day living and parenting and on and on.  And my brain started to kind of blow up a bit.

I may have sent my friend Mookie a panic-drunk text.  He’s been a professional writer for well over a decade and immediately sympathized with my lunacy, and he talked me back from the ledge.  He gave me the best advice that we’ve all already heard, but usually forget when it all blows up: take everything one step at a time.  Don’t try to do everything all at once.  Slow down, make a list, and then start locking that shit down.

So, I did.

First up, the Finding Insight pre-order should be up in the next couple of days.  Amazon is being slow in approving it for some reason, but then giant multi-national corporations don’t exactly move cheetah fast.  While I’m waiting for that I’m buckling down and working on sketching out my outlines.  I’m likely to keep pantsing a bit, but having that framework already laid did help me finally finish Insight, so I’d like to try it from the beginning.  I’m talking to my cover designer about the next Los Gatos book (don’t get too excited, it’s months off yet.  I’d just like to have the cover ready to go.)

So I have a list now.  It’s about 2 pages long, but still.  It’s a list, in pretty much the order I need to do stuff in.  I’m sure I’ll find out other things I need to add, and I’ll change my mind on others.  No doubt moving will make a significant dent in my best-laid plans.  We’ll see.  Still, the Anxiety Gnomes didn’t even get off a real attack this time, so I’m calling it a win.  How do you keep your brain from spinning out when there’s too much going on?  I’d love to have a few more tricks up my sleeve for next time!

Changing gears

StockSnap_LTY3TGLE73

Having been thrown completely off my stride the past few weeks hasn’t exactly led to a great surge of productivity, as I’m sure you noticed.  However, it did force me to evaluate my methods.  One of the things about being an indie author is that you are your own company, responsible for everything from marketing to time management to actually putting words on (digital) paper.  I am good at approximately one of those things.

StockSnap_3BWN7KIF4TSo I’ve been trying to work out how to get better at a few of them, or at least get them a bit more organized. There are going to be a few changes coming up soon.  Exciting things that I hope you all like or at least understand and approve of.  Right now I’m not planning on changing the blog schedule or the newsletter.  I might post a bit less on Facebook, but that’s easier to take with me as I go.  However, I’m working on project planning and I now have a list of things I’m going to work on over the next few months.   I’m only planning a few months out since I have this giant move looming over my head, but I think overall you will all be pleased with my ideas.

In the meantime, Sarah’s Inheritance has gone on sale for coffee-snack-cup$.99 through this weekend.  If you wanted to pick it up, now’s a great time!  And Finding Insight should be up for pre-order very soon, so Watch This Space, if you will.  News and Announcements will be appearing over the next few weeks, not just of the book, but of a few other fun tricks and treats.

Wait, what?

I just read about a woman standing in peak-toed shoes.  She was also peaking around the corner, horrified at the site her eyes were taking in.

boy-facepalm-child-youth-exasperated-tired.jpg

I can’t even tell you how much it hurt me to read about this poor woman.  I mean what kind of bizarre body shape does she have to require those strange shoes?  Or to jut out like that from around a corner?  And what sort of superpowers does she have to suck an entire location into her eyes?

Okay, okay, we all know perfectly well that I’m talking about homophones here.  We’re all familiar with the usual suspects like ‘which witch is which?’ and ‘They’re going to their car over there.’ These are the popular ones that everyone talks about in grade school, and when we come across them we often sigh and shake our head but move on past them because we understand it.  But I have been coming across some whoppers lately that a spell check is just not going to catch, and man.  I had to start collecting them.

Reek vs wreak is a good one.  I’m not sure how someone would reek vengeance, but it sounds horrifying.  I posted on Facebook the other day about the wonton love scene.  The professor in my family facepalmed hard when I pointed out the site/sight/cite problem one author was having.  Past and passed is another one I’ve started coming across recently.  It’s difficult for me to keep my suspension of disbelief when someone ducked passed something or wants to discuss the recent passed.  And when I read about it, I don’t shutter, I shudder.  Yeah, I’ve seen that one as well.

Illicit and elicit is a new one I just dug up.  I can’t even imagine how someone could illicit the reaction the author was going on about, but it probably was illegal in several states.  One I actually come across frequently isn’t a homophone, but a spelling error that is very easy to make so I try not to get upset, but breath and breathe are not interchangeable words.

Now I am far from perfect.  I’ve gotten notes on my published books where I’ve made a whopper of a mistake, and I truly appreciate when someone takes the time to let me know about a specific error.  But truly.  Some of these mistakes are just at the peek of lazy editing.

red marker

Photo credit: theilr on Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA

Mary huh?

StockSnap_3BWN7KIF4TOne thing that I have trouble with as a writer— and let’s be honest, as a human being— is wanting to be someone else.  I think I’ve mentioned before how I suffer from anxiety and so on?  I try not to talk about it here too much partly because that’s not what this space is about and partly because it’s a little too personal.  For as open as I am about myself, there is still a part of me that’s kept for my nearest and dearest, what can I say?

Anyhow.

It’s one of the things that first drew me to stories, in general.  The ability to read a book and, at least in my own mind, become someone else for a little while.  And of course, I have always loved stories with strong female characters in them because then, while I read that book or watched that movie or whatever, I could pretend that I was strong and brave and clever, just like Hermione or Alnosha or even the girls in Sailor Moon.  They weren’t necessarily perfect, but they possessed characteristics I didn’t see in myself growing up, and that sort of attitude stays with me.

female boxer raising her arms in victory

Photo credit: jumfer on Visual Hunt / CC BY

According to Wikipedia:  Mary Sue is an idealized and seemingly perfect fictional character. Often, this character is recognized as an author insert or wish fulfillment.[1] They can usually perform better at tasks than should be possible given the amount of training or experience.

It’s usually used as a derogatory term, and you definitely don’t want to have one in your story! You probably see where I’m heading.

I don’t actively seek out Mary Sue characters when I read (or watch a show) just so that I can identify with them and pretend that I have a perfect, idealized life, but when I do come across a character whose eyes I can see through I don’t automatically reject them.  I also look for a broader explanation.  Just because a character doesn’t have a skill at the beginning of the story, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a related skill they can adapt or a basic understanding of how the skill works without having any practice at it.  There are any number of things that can be going on in the life of a character, including legitimate giftedness.

Now I have written a couple of female characters, Sarah being the first to take center stage.  Every one of my characters does indeed have a little bit of myself in them, I can’t lie to you.  Sarah got probably a little more of my own self-doubt and social awkwardness than should have slipped by the edits, but I’ll have to live with that.  I’m fairly sure that’s not what Wikipedia means by ‘author self-insertion’ and it’s absolutely not any sort of ‘wish fulfillment.’ If anything, it put on display a part of myself I’d much rather hide from the world.  If any character in the Los Gatos universe is a Mary Sue, it’s Sarah’s dead grandmother, Lady Basically-not-appearing-in-this-book.  I do wish I was that outgoing and friendly and comfortable in my own skin.  Not to mention I kind of did envision my perfect backyard when I wrote about her garden.

But then I hear that basically, every female character is a Mary Sue unless they’re terrible characters. Hermione is one. Rey from Star Wars is one.  So my question, I guess, is why is every female character that discovers a gift or a skill or a talent some sort of terrible, throw-away, trope character?  It makes no sense to me, but I’m going to take any such accusations as a compliment.  I feel like Sarah and Doc and May are all in excellent company.  Right up there with Rey and Hermione.

Next up…

A Spirit's Kindred.jpg

Well, first things first, I suppose.  A Spirit’s Kindred is now available for pre-order!  Launch day is March 11th, and the promotional price will last for another week past that, so if you want the fancy pants Launch Price, now’s your chance.  I hope you enjoy Kai’s story!

It was a tough one for me to write.  I had to go back several times and redo large parts to avoid Kai falling into the whiny jerk role.  I think he’s got some fairly legitimate concerns about his own abilities, but as any writer (or artist, or actor or…) can tell you it’s really easy to take a legitimate concern and turn it into crippling self-doubt.  When there are external forces pushing you down that road as well… Well, you’ll have to tell me if I did an acceptable job or not.

Other than that, we spent this weekend here in Maryland trying not to get blown away by “windmageddon.”  It was the first time I’d heard about school being closed for wind, but then it was the first time I saw a street sign blown flat over without a hurricane behind it, so maybe the school system was on to something.

Hunkering down gave me plenty of time to think about the plot for the next Los Gatos book, and I think I might be on to something interesting.  We’ll see how it all works out this week.  It seems like I’ll be spending my time outlining and plotting.  I live to make life complicated, it seems.  Well, some lives, anyway… Sebastian and Doc don’t know what they’re in for.

 

Fresh News!

Placeholder Image

It has been gloriously springlike here in Maryland.  Rainy, yes, but we’ve needed it badly.  The drought here isn’t as bad as it was in California before I moved, but it’s bad enough to warrant concern.  Besides, I love the rain.

Even though the weather outside is gorgeous and seductive, I’ve been inside pounding away at the keyboard.  I finally got to write the wonderful words The End at the bottom of Brian’s latest adventure.  After all the trouble this one’s given me I can’t tell you how relieved I am to see those six little letters.  Of course, the thing needs some major overhaul work on it, but I’ve sent it to my Alpha Reader for a once over before I return to it for the first round of edits.  Overall I’m pretty pleased though, and I think that the bones are good.  Look for news on a release date and so on.  I’m thinking soon, though.  Once I broke past the wall, it went fairly quickly.

A Spirit’s Kindred is coming out sooner though!  Slated for March 11th, I will put it up for preorder hopefully over the weekend, for a special reduced price for launch.  The cover is shaping up and looks amazing, you guys!  You’ll get to see it on Monday I have no doubt.  I’m being a little extra picky with this one, though, which is why it’s taking so long.  I’m pretty sure my cover artist is about ready to plot my death via thousands of paper cuts.

I’ve also got a special promotion slated to run at the same time.  Sarah’s Inheritance will be free from March 9th through the 13th if you haven’t picked it up yet.  Hard to beat free as a price point!  Anyhow, that’s all the news from here for now.  I’m hard at work on a few projects:  Brian’s adventure (man, I need a title for that!) and a new Los Gatos novel is slowly forming in my mind,  and maybe a fun short story or two for my newsletter readers are starting to come together a bit. Basically, the next few months should be a lot of fun, don’t you think?

Cover story

StockSnap_3BWN7KIF4T

So one of the things I’ve been working on lately while I’ve been failing to get words on (digital) pages and editing Spirit’s Kindred is lining up book covers.  I’m sure many of you haven’t given a lot of thought to them.  After all, for an average reader, they’re just the pretty picture that may or may not be your sort of art.  Thing is that’s the whole point.   A cover is the very beginning of whatever story is contained behind it.  It’s what a reader hits before the first line of the book, before the synopsis or blurb, and often it’s  even before the title.  So it’s got to be solid.

Sarah’s Inheritance is a totally different kind of cover than I’ve used before, and I’m Sarah's Inheritanceactually somewhat excited by it.  I like the painted feeling of it, and it fits in quite nicely with other covers in the genre rather than standing out, which is more important than I knew when I started.  See, going back to the ‘beginning to tell the story’ point I made a second ago, what a reader such as yourself wants to know about a book when they scroll by it on the ‘Zon, is what sort of story it contains.  If a book has a tough looking pair of people in full combat gear and bazookas, you’re not going to pick it up expecting a sweet teen romance coming of age story, right?

But a decent cover can really cost.  Anywhere from $150 and up for a custom created book cover that a writer can be proud of, and that can really put a dent in the proceedings.  So I’m looking at my calendar and pondering the projects I have lined up, and I’m trying to figure out timing and designers and what sort of images to put with which story (which is not a skill I excel at, let’s just say shall we?)

The upside, however, is that I’ve gotten to look through a few amazing portfolios of some really fantastic artists.  Not that I can afford $500 for a single ebook cover right now, but hey, a girl can dream, right?

Big Reveal

You guys, I have a cover!  I have a couple, actually, but one of them’s for the newsletter folks.  ANYway.  I got the cover for Sarah’s Inheritance, and I’m super excited!  Wanna see it?  Oh, okay then, I guess I can show you.

Sarah's Inheritance

Pretty wild, huh?  I deliberately wanted this cover to be different from the Riverton Novels since it’s a distinctly different universe.  I don’t have a ton to say about it here, but I’m really pleased.  I’ll be finishing pulling the book together today or tomorrow, and make it available January 28.  Here’s the ‘back cover copy’ (even though there isn’t a back cover right now…)

Sarah knew she was getting a house.  She didn’t know about the rest of it.

Learning of her grandmother’s death shook Sarah Richards.  She hadn’t seen the woman since she was a child, kept far away on the other side of the country by her controlling mother.  They had built a long-distance relationship though secret phone calls and unmentioned emails, and even though Sarah was now well into adulthood she still hadn’t gathered the courage to go visit the grandmother she missed, and now it was too late.  Now, though, she owned the house Gran had lived in, and Sarah was determined to break free of her mother’s grasp.  Moving from New York City to a town just outside of San Jose, California was scary, but she felt drawn there to learn more about her grandmother, and if she was lucky, to find her own path in life.

What she didn’t expect was to be thrown into a supernatural battle between monsters from her worst nightmares and Gran’s strange, not-quite-human friends.  It turns out that the house was the least important part of what Rosemary Richards passed down to her granddaughter, and now Sarah has to decide if she is willing to learn more about the world she’s been dumped into or if she would rather go back to her mother where life was dull, but at least it was safe.

Sarah’s Inheritance is the first book in the Spirits of Los Gatos series.  If you like Andre Norten and Jaymim Eve, you’ll enjoy this tale of one woman finding out what she actually wants from life.  Buy Sarah’s Inheritance now and see what secrets Los Gatos is hiding.

StockSnap_3BWN7KIF4TI’ve been chipping away at Brian, as well.  It’s a pretty rough first draft so far, and I feel like it’s really short.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do about that, but I’ll get it off to my alpha reader in the next couple of weeks I hope, so we’ll see about all that.  Spirit’s Kindred is bubbling along as well.  It’s out to my beta readers right now, and I’ll be hopefully starting edits on that in a week or so.  I’m really afraid that I’m going to have to push the publication dates back a bit, though.  Life has gotten way more full of assorted crap than I’d left time for, so it’s all going a bit more slowly than I hoped, so we’re looking at end of February maybe early March for the Sarah sequel.  We’ll see.

Anyway, what do you think?  It’s pretty different, isn’t it?