Last preview

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I need more coffee.  Oh, guys.

I know, I know, it’s been a lot of previews up in here lately.  But Brewing Trouble goes live on Thursday, so next week you should have a different sort of post here.  Assuming NaNoWriMo hasn’t completely shut my brain down.

Hah, maybe I’ll write about how it’s difficult to be creative on demand.  Entirely possible, but tough.

At any rate, here’s your last excerpt before launch, I hope you enjoy it!

 

Brewing Trouble ebookA heavy shudder ran over her body and made the old bench creak.Suddenly, the stillness of the night and the soft gurgle of the water seemed ominous, and the soothing peace she’d sought fled for the comfort of the lighted apartments.Sarah wanted nothing more than to follow it.She turned in her seat and started to stand up, and the shadowed figure standing on the path froze her in place.For one panicked second she thought the wights were back and had somehow gotten inside the wards, but then the familiar, friendly, safe greeting reached her.

“Mr. Young!” Sarah gasped.The world around her snapped back into place, the stress and anxiety driven off by the quiet older spirit.Mr. Young smiled and tipped his head at her, his brown eyes soft and comforting.

“Sure, I’d love for you to join me.”Sarah scooted over on the bench to make room for him.He never spoke— at least not that she had ever heard— but he still managed to communicate somehow.Nobody really understood it, but everyone agreed that you just knew, somehow, what it was he wanted to say.

Mr. Young stepped over and sat gingerly on the bench, sighing in simple pleasure as he settled his weight and brushed his hand over his plain brown trousers.He settled back onto the bench slowly, with a long, tired sigh.

“Oh, come on, you’re not that old.You’re barely old enough to be my grandfather,” Sarah said, then chuckled and shook her head.“Actually, you’re probably older than I would guess, aren’t you?”

Mr. Young winked at her and reached into the pocket of his cardigan.He pulled out a candy bar and snapped it in half, holding one piece out to her.

“Thanks.” Sarah accepted the gift and turned back to the pond, which was once again just a pleasant spot to spend some time.“I guess you’re only as old as you feel, huh?”

Mr. Young nodded.They sat and listened to the water splashing into the pool while they ate their treat.Finally, after swallowing his last bite, Mr. Young turned to her and tipped his head.

“Nah, I just needed a few minutes, you know?Everything’s been so hard this week, I had to step away for a breath or two.”Sarah shrugged.“This outbreak of shadow pox while Doc’s in the hospital, and then Meg got hurt today—”

Mr. Young frowned.

“She’s okay, mostly.She got shoved by some guy, and it all cascaded until the display case broke.She needed to get stitches for one cut, but otherwise she’s fine,” she said.“But I’m not fine with it.The guy that shoved her?He was sent into the shop on purpose, with a talisman specifically to get through the wards.”

Mr. Young’s frown deepened.

“I know.I’m kind of freaked out.” Sarah slumped back onto the bench and pulled her own jacket tighter around herself.The days were plenty warm, with the summer sun shining, but the evenings could get chilly and tonight definitely qualified.“Doc is being attacked deliberately, it’s not just some weird, random virus she picked up or anything.I’m so worried about her. And we don’t know what to do.Gabe saw a witch casting some sort of big spell, and she seems to be Angela Davila Meg’s so-called coven leader and all around favorite person. “I’m not Doc.I’m not my grandmother.I’m not good enough to do all this.”

She sensed rather than saw him roll his eyes, and got the impression of a snort.A lone wisp of mist drifted past her eyes where she stared at the path that they sat beside.It flowed over the ornamental gravel and collected on the surface of the pond to swirl playfully away to nothing.

“You know I’m not exactly a well trained witch.Sure, I know I have the potential, I’m not going to ignore that, but with the exception of breaking that one curse on Sebastian, I’ve never done anything big on my own.And even that was almost just pure luck, and I’m pretty sure that Kai’s dad was helping guide me.”

Mr. Young nodded.He looked around the pond and pointed at something invisible, just past the wall on the far side of the water that surrounded the whole apartment complex.

“Yeah, I fixed the wards, but I’ve worked with Doc on wards for months.I’ve never seen Shadow pox before. Or Ellie came in the other day with Dryad Flu.And now there’s another witch out there coming after the shop, and Doc, and by extension all of us.And I have to fix everything.”

It was too much for a new witch to handle on her own. Mr. Young shook his head and raised his eyebrow at her.

“Yeah, I know you’re right.Nobody can do everything by themselves.And I’m not on my own here.I’ve got you and Sebastian and Kai and everyone,” Sarah slumped on the bench. “It’s just that this feels like a problem that needs to be solved by a witch, you know?And I’m the only one around now.And I don’t even know where to begin to start.I don’t know if I can do this, and then it’ll be my fault if Doc doesn’t get better.”

Her eyes burned and she squeezed then shut against the tears.A warm hand brushed over her shoulder and she smelled something that made her think of her garden after a cool morning shower passed over it, something refreshing and healing and honest.

Tears filled Sarah’s eyes now for a different reason.Mr. Young patted her shoulder and then held out a packet of tissues.

“Thank you.”She took the tissues and dabbed at her eyes while her companion smiled gently at her.

“Yeah, Doc said I should look for other teachers, too.It seems to be a theme lately,” she said.It was a little scary to know that Mr. Young— a spirit old and powerful enough to be considered a god— had faith in her. A completely average, young, all too human witch.She had to smile at the idea that she now thought that being a witch was average.

He nudged her elbow with his own and grinned.

Sarah laughed out loud now.“Yeah.Sebastian has been after Gabe, and I made the mistake of mentioning the idea to him.Now he’s starting to get after me about it, and it’s been barely a day since the idea came up.”She sobered slightly.“Doc suggested that I study herbalism, but I don’t know.I feel like I’m getting as much hands on practice with that as I need. Maybe I should look at something else to compliment that?What do you think?”

He tipped his head and his salt-and-pepper hair caught the bit of light from the corner.It almost looked like the mist was clinging to him as much as to the pond.Sarah wondered again what sort of spirit he could be.Not that it mattered especially, but…

He looked at her with a raised eyebrow.

“I guess.”Sarah wasn’t sure that she was ready to take a whole new degree in anything.“I mean, I could look into classes for that sort of thing.Sebastian’s been after me to take classes ever since I mentioned it.You’re right that if I’m going to stick around doing this back-room witch clinic stuff, I should know more about medicine in general.Especially if Doc’s not around as much.”Sarah refused to accept that her mentor might not recover.The Apothecary without Doc was unthinkable.

Mr. Young nudged her elbow again.His grin was sly, and Sarah had to laugh again.

“You’re right.My mother would have a harder time arguing about a medical degree,” she said.“Though I have to say, I’d probably go for something like nursing rather than trying to be a doctor.She’d complain loudly that it wasn’t prestigious enough or something, I’m sure.”

Mr. Young just rolled his eyes slightly, but Sarah didn’t get any impressions of conversation behind the gesture, so it must have been just that.She sat beside him quietly thinking for a moment before turning back to tip her own head.

“Thank you,” she said.“I didn’t realize how much I just needed a friend for a minute.”

Mr. Young patted her arm, and Sarah had the sense— not that he was speaking in any way, but there was just a connection to a feeling— that Mr. Young was looking out for his family in his own way.If family was what you made of it, then she was glad to call Mr. Young her grandfather.And Doc was more maternal than her own mother.

Sarah was going to make them both proud.

Brewing Trouble is in preorder until Thursday when it goes live, and the rest of the series will be on sale to celebrate!

Vectors

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I am a creature of momentum, and frankly, it makes life really difficult.  I suppose, to a degree, everyone has this problem, and I know I’m not alone in this difficulty.  It’s the reason that kids throw a tantrum when they have to change activities.  It’s why binge-watching has become how people consume television programs.  It’s why gamers will sit down and intend to play for one level or just this one quest, and then get up hours later only thanks to the demands of biology. It’s why knitters lie and say ‘just one more row’ or bookworms claim they’re only reading till the end of the chapter.  Once you’re doing something, it’s so much easier and more satisfying to just keep doing that thing pretty much forever.

Still, most people are capable of getting their butts up at the end of lunch or a break or when they finish the one task they need to complete, in order to move on to the next thing they need to attend do.  Turning off the TV and going to start dinner doesn’t feel like an impossibly difficult thing for most normal folks, and ordinarily, I’m able to manage to force myself to get into the kitchen and feed myself and my family.

It’s just my circumstances right now that are really messing with me.  My sleeping habits are not the greatest, as you’re aware by now.  Added to that, the dark peacefulness of the small hours of the night are the only quiet I really get to myself.  But this translates into not waking up before The Boy does, not that it’d be easy to do that anyway.  Kid’s up at almost 5 am daily and has been since birth.

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Photo credit: Fairy Heart ♥ on Visual hunt / CC BY-SA

So, he gets up and plays in his room, often with a Nintendo DS or the Switch, but there’s Legos and robots and other things to amuse him as well.  Then my husband gets up and gets through his morning routine to get ready for work, and then… well, lately I sleep through all of that.  I’ll wake up when my alarm goes off at quarter till nine.  Now, it’s not an alarm I set to get me out of bed.  It’s an alarm I set to remind me to keep a record of something at nearly the same time every day.  It’s a business thing. And for the past month, I’ve managed to almost sleep right through it.

So the day is already off to a poor start.  Instead of getting up and being ready to leave the house with my husband like I’m supposed to, to walk with The Boy to the market and get the day’s groceries (which was working really well for a while!) we’re lucky to leave the house at all.  I’m in pajamas most weekdays, much to the amusement of a couple of delivery guys who’ve been by.

It’s a struggle that I’m trying to break free of, and my body hasn’t been helping with the back-to-back colds I’ve had in the last few weeks.  The bright side of this is, though, that if I can start writing in the morning like I have the past few days, I can bang out a pretty respectable word count by bedtime.  Which means that I’m making headway on short stories, and on a few other projects.  So there is a small glimmer of light at the end of this tunnel.  I just hope I can shift my habits around a bit and get some more positive momentum going.

After all, the holidays are coming, and nothing wreaks more havoc on a routine than December.

Timeline

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I am not a cover designer, but I do my best… It’ll look nicer when they’re all collected.

As you know, I’ve been writing short stories to premiere on my Patreon page.  The first is up now, but I’ve got the second and third already in process for the next two months.  That’s, unfortunately, been a bit of a problem.

You see, This first story is current.  That is, it’s about Cassie, and her adventures just after the events of Finding Insight.  The second story is about Gabe and happens in the middle of Brewing Trouble, which I’m still writing.  Made it a bit easier to overlap the events, at least!  But… the third story is about Marcus and takes place way back just near the beginning of Finding Insight, or just before.

Which, while I felt pretty inspired by the story itself, caused some serious hiccuping in my brain.  I had to remember what happened in that book, for one thing, but more importantly, I had to remember what hadn’t happened yet.  I gamely started in on it and to my chagrin, my mind switched gears quickly and I managed to finish the story in a few days to send out to my beta readers.  I was thrilled!  I could get right back to Brewing Trouble and keep my momentum going!

So I sat and stared at a blank screen for two days.  Because my brain couldn’t catch up again.  I had a book hangover from the short story I just wrote, and couldn’t get back into the right part of the time stream of the series.

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Where’d these new characters come from?  We just introduced Marcus and Cassie, right?  All that stuff with Kai in the basement just happened, didn’t it?  I mean… how is he so totally healed up already? And, and, and… Augh!

So I’ve had to forcibly retrain my brain into the right timeline.  It’s slow going, but I’m getting back to it finally, which is good since I was hoping to be almost done with this one before our move next month and I don’t think it’s going to happen.  Ah well.

Character building

One of the things I’ve been working on with the short stories I’m writing is trying to improve my character work.  Without characters, after all, a story doesn’t go very well.  Actually, I suppose it can, but that sort of writing is way beyond my skill.  I’m willing to go a pretty long way for a good character, and let’s be honest.  More often than not the character is what catch us for a good adventure.

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Photo credit: Marvin (PA) via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC

I’ve been coming across some fantastic characters recently, both in books and in real life.  While I’m considering how the books I’ve plowed through showed these characters— the craft part of writing— I’ve also been trying to capture the characters I’ve been seeing in real life.  There’s the young man who is always reaching out to touch his friends.  It’s not anything aggressive or needy, but a hand on a shoulder or a laughing hip-check seems to be a constant thing for him, and his friends not only don’t mind, they seem to support this tactile young man by reciprocating.

There’s the grizzled older man in fatigue pants who turned to reveal that his black t-shirt is, in fact, covered in sequins.  The woman with the amazing lilac leather jacket and vinyl rainbow purse.  I see these people and want to know their stories.  I want to hear about the amazing adventures or heartbreaking tragedies they’ve got hidden behind the surface of what I can see while sitting at the cafe table. There are amazing characters everywhere if you’re paying attention, and my goal recently is to be able to do them justice when I put them down on the page.

Tea, anyone?

The next book in the Los Gatos series is in progress, and I seem to be spending more time in the Apothecary than I have in the past.  It’s fun, actually, since I really enjoy herbal teas myself.  Yes, I have dabbled in herbalism, and though I have made salves and syrups for various ailments, I would never claim to be any sort of expert.  But the teas have always stuck with me.

So I’m having a bit of fun with this, looking up various tea blends, and the magical properties of plants, and what have you. There are a number of amazing resources out there for those who want to get deep into the health benefits of plants (and yes, a lot of it is Science and is borne out by Studies in Laboratories, but I’m not here to argue about it,) and if you want, I’ll list a few of the resources I myself have used.  But for today, I’ve been poking around online, finding recipes that sound delicious or adaptable.  Rosehip and mint tea.  Mint and ginger tea.  Citrus or apple peels and cinnamon chips.

Today, I’ve made my kitchen smell bright with lemon peel and mint fresh from our garden.  A spoon full of rosehips have added a lovely blush to my drink, and I’m thinking it’s going to be a good day to take my tea outside and read a good book in the shade of our patio.  It’s a pleasure I should afford myself more often, I think.

You may have noticed a new tab up there on the navigation bar.  I have a Patreon page now!  Want your name on my website or even *gasp!* in my books?  Or maybe you just want the sweet loot, and by ‘loot’ I mean ‘even more stories.’  Head on over to the page and check out the rewards.

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Ambiance

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Photo credit: Sander van der Wel via Visualhunt / CC BY-SA

Yeah, motivation is still a problem.  I feel like I’m dragging words out my fingers rather than letting them flow naturally.  Some of that is stuff I can’t really help: the way my theatre job is affecting my mood (it’s hard history, you guys.  And it’s depressing.  The more things change…) the speed at which various governments work.  Organizing for the move is endless details of crap and tiny things.  I can’t control my kid’s mood, or my energy levels, or whether I catch this damn cold again.

But there are a few things I can very much control: the relative healthiness of my meals, getting up in the morning and actually sitting down to work, and to some extent, I can control my surroundings.  You see, I prefer these days to work in the dining room, which has a wonderful view of our backyard, but also has a wonderful, direct-shot to our neighbor’s leaf blower compulsion every day when she gets home from work.

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So I do what I can.  I grab the earbuds and plug into my laptop and pull up something to drown out the noise.  Often it’s a Pandora station.  I have a few that I started from things like Carbon Leaf or World of Warcraft soundtracks or the Yoshida Brothers.  They’ve all gotten pretty eclectically weird though.  Sometimes I pull up a ‘productivity radio’ website which seems to be mostly club music with a steady beat and few words.

Sometimes, however, I want something a little different.  So I dig up some ambient radio.  There’s a ton of ambient sound sites out there, and you can find something to suit just about any location you want.  Right now, for example, I’m listening to the vague distractions of a Medieval Town.  It’s full of sheep and distant cows, horses pulling wagons and the wheels gritting over the dirt road, kids laughing and people chatting as they walk by.  There’s some sort of metal clinking somewhere, maybe a blacksmith.  If I feel like a drink I can pop into any one of the nearby taverns— there are several options to decide between, from Alien Nightclub to Mountain Tavern.  I can go anywhere.

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Dude, move before the next cart comes by.  You’re blocking the market square!     Photo via Visualhunt

I love this site.  There are others as well, plenty to pick from.  Prefer something inspired by your favorite fandom?  This is a great place to check.  Want something more natural?  Mix your own here.  I find that this sort of thing is immeasurably helpful when I’m trying to get my mind onto my work and get the words flowing again.   What sort of thing do you like to listen to when you’re working?

Getting back

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It’s been a long couple of weeks, you guys.  I had a much more visceral reaction to this show that is normal, and I have to hand it to the cast for that reaction.  It’s a pretty powerful and important musical and I’m proud to be working on it.  The downside, as you’ve noticed, is that basically, all my other work has swirled off into the great black hole of mental space-time.

However, now that the show is open and we’re on a regular run schedule, I’m starting to get myself back on track.  I’ve realized that while I can work just about anywhere, I need to have some kind of consistency about it.  The same time every day, the same (or damn close) setup of my laptop, some music, and a cup of coffee.  I can’t have people constantly swirling around me or talking at me.  It’s been pretty interesting, actually, trying to get work done in odd places and strange times at the theatre.

So I’m home in the mornings now, working out my new schedule for the next couple of weeks.  Get up, take a walk, have some coffee.  Take The Boy to school and when I get back, I sit down and get cracking at the doing room table.  Yeah, I have a desk upstairs, and yeah my family wanders in and out, but mostly they let me work and knowing they’re around is comforting.  Okay, usually it’s comforting.

I discovered a few months back that I work well in sprints, so I’ll set my alarm and plow through 45 or so minutes of writing or plotting or edits and then take a break so my mind doesn’t crumple under the strain.  It’s good to be getting words down again, finally.  Even if they’re more character sketch, unconnected scenes, or general rambling.  I know I’m brewing the next few things to get out to you guys, and the process settles something in my soul.

Wish me luck, though.  School’s out in two weeks.

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Seeing red

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

Ink, that is.  Okay, okay, I actually can’t find my red pen, which I do use out of respect for traditions, but the past few weeks have basically blown any semblance of order and routine straight out of my life.  (A perfect example is how late this post is going up…)

The next Los Gatos book is in the middle of being shredded by the First Pass before I let anyone else read it.  I’m about a week behind where I wanted to be, but you know?  Considering everything this month, I’m okay with that.  I still have to email my editor and give her a heads up, but I think I can pull this off without being too horrifyingly late.

This one is focusing on Sebastian, Kai’s brother, Sarah’s boyfriend, and the Village’s helpful handyman extraordinaire.  But I find myself having a new sort of problem: I have to find a real balance between over-explaining recent events in Los Gatos and risk irritating folks who have read the first two books, and under explaining those events and thus losing the people who randomly stumbled into the middle of the series.

I have honestly not had this problem before.

Well, now I think about it, I have.  But then, the Riverton series got oddly difficult suddenly, and that is the least of my concerns with it.  Brian and company are still on hiatus for a bit while I sort through these edits and then the tech process for my last show next month.  I also have the next Los Gatos story tickling around in the back of my head, and a few short stories as well.  We’ll see how much I can pound out in the next couple of weeks.

Before all that, though: edits.

My new plants…

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So I finished the next Spirits of Los Gatos novel last Friday!  Well, okay.  I finished the first draft of the next Los Gatos novel last Friday.  There’s a LOT left to work on, and I’m starting that this week.  The main character in this one is Sebastian, and he’s got a few things he needs to work out, and there’s plenty of areas that need smoothing out or alternately roughing up a little.  Also, Granny’s mad at me because Seb doesn’t go out for Pho at any point in this one, and clearly that’s just not cool.

But here’s the exciting part about it: I got stuck about halfway.  This seems to be a Thing for me at this point.  I mean, no matter what I’ve done to prepare, I seem to get stuck right in the middle of the story and have no idea how to write myself out of it.  So while I was wallowing in my misery just a bit, I went back to my notes.

See, I started this one by going through and working out about half a snowflake.  By this, I mean that I wrote out a sentence to describe the book, then a paragraph, then a page description of my story, and I did a few paragraphs for each of the important characters.  But… I didn’t go all the way through the whole process.  (Partly because the way his book is written makes me want to strangle him and I couldn’t bring myself to keep reading it.)

But even with all this handy guiding information about where my story was going andStockSnap_LTY3TGLE73 how the characters were going to get it there, I still couldn’t quite figure out what happened next.  Amazon, confused as I have made the ‘Zon’s algorithms, still recommends to me writing books at a pretty consistent rate. One of them was written by a woman who started to pay attention to her word count and her writing speed.  One of the things she suggested doing was noting down the beats you want to hit in each scene or chapter.  So… I started scribbling a few things for each of the next couple of chapters since beyond that I wasn’t as confident about where I was going, despite the snowflake.

And it worked.  I wrote the last half of the book in about a week, and it felt smooth, not forced!  I didn’t plot out the whole book, chapter by chapter, scene by scene, but I did manage to work out a lot of stuff ahead of when I wrote it, so I wasn’t fully pantsing my way through it either.

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

Now, I’m moving on to editing the book so you might be getting a preview of the work sometime over the next few weeks.  But I’m also re-reading Take Off Your Pants, and I’m thinking of the next thing I’m going to sit down and work on from scratch, and maybe going back over Brian’s next book and starting almost from scratch on it. We’ll see how it goes.  What are your thoughts?  Do you write?  are you a planner or a pantser, or in between , like me?

The State of Your Author

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This is basically everyone I know this spring.

So it’s been a rough spring for just about everyone I know.  Illnesses and deaths and housing issues, and in one case scholarship/paying for school scare.  I’m not going to whine about what’s going on in my family, but suffice it to say it’s sticking to the season’s theme.

On top of the unplanned difficulties, our family is working toward finally moving to Tokyo to rejoin my husband, which as you can imagine is fraught with bureaucracy from not merely one but two countries.  Woohoo!

StockSnap_LTY3TGLE73Anyway, my point in all this is to explain why I’m not telling you about the next book to look forward to.  Yet.  I know I’ve said that Brian finally cooperated and I got to finish his next book, but… well, it’s now wallowing pretty heavily in the editing process.  And I can’t find a decent title to save my life.  It’s been painful, and I’ve subjected my family and friends to moaning complaints about it repeatedly for months now.  They love it when I start complaining about demons and hard-boiled detectives and what have you.  I may be driving them to drink…

But there is hope!  The next Los Gatos novel is working out much better.  Sebastian is a bit thorny, and while I’m still writing the ending of it and it has to go through edits, but it feels much closer to ready.  So I’ve made an executive decision to swap the releases, and you’re going to get a new Los Gatos book at the end of May or beginning of June, depending on how fast editing goes.  And I’ve got a few ideas bubbling away for later on down the line going on over there in the Bay Area.

Brian… well, Brian will reappear when he’s ready.  He’s clearly got a few things to work through still, and I think it will be worth it, but patience seems to be key with that guy.

So there you are.  The state of your author.