Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, Writer, Possessed by Cats

Tag: Nocturnal Origins (Page 1 of 4)

Whew, made it!

Last week was a challenge. I’ll not bore you with the details. Let’s just say I’m glad it’s over. Now, hopefully, I can get back on track.

Part of that is figuring out why the conversion for Nocturnal Rebellion borked. Even though I’m putting it up for pre-order, it bothers me when the conversion isn’t what it should be. For that reason, I didn’t take the pre-order live. I’m looking at the file again this morning and trying to find the problem. As soon as I have it fixed and the upload goes through, I’ll post here.

In the meantime, here’s hoping everyone who attended LibertyCon over the weekend makes it home safely. Hopefully, I’ll be able to make it next year. Fingers crossed and all that.

Also, a reminder that I’ve got three books on sale right now:

Nocturnal Origins (Nocturnal Lives, Book 1)

by Amanda S. Green

Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

Wedding Bell Blues

by Ellie Ferguson

Weddings always bring out the worst in people. Or at least that’s the way it seems to Jessica Jones as her younger sister’s wedding day approaches. It’s bad enough Jessie has to wear a bridesmaid dress that looks like it was designed by a color blind Harlequin. Then there’s the best man who is all hands and no manners. Now add in a murder and Jessie’s former lover — former because she caught him doing the horizontal tango on their kitchen table with her also-former best friend. It really is almost more than a girl should be expected to handle. . . .

Hunted 

by Ellie Ferguson

When Meg Finley’s parents died, the authorities classified it as a double suicide. Alone, hurting and suddenly the object of the clan’s alpha’s desire, her life was a nightmare. He didn’t care that she was grieving any more than he cared that she was only fifteen. So she’d run and she’d been running ever since. But now, years later, her luck’s run out. The alpha’s trackers have found her and they’re under orders to bring her back, no matter what. Without warning, Meg finds herself in a game of cat and mouse with the trackers in a downtown Dallas parking garage. She’s learned a lot over the years but, without help, it might not be enough to escape a fate she knows will be worse than death. What she didn’t expect was that help would come from the local clan leader. But would he turn out to be her savior or something else, something much more dangerous?

When Meg Finley’s parents died, the authorities classified it as a double suicide. Alone, hurting and suddenly the object of the clan’s alpha’s desire, her life was a nightmare. He didn’t care that she was grieving any more than he cared that she was only fifteen. So she’d run and she’d been running ever since. But now, years later, her luck’s run out. The alpha’s trackers have found her and they’re under orders to bring her back, no matter what. Without warning, Meg finds herself in a game of cat and mouse with the trackers in a downtown Dallas parking garage. She’s learned a lot over the years but, without help, it might not be enough to escape a fate she knows will be worse than death. What she didn’t expect was that help would come from the local clan leader. But would he turn out to be her savior or something else, something much more dangerous?

Six Years

I don’t usually look at the “memories” Facebook seems to be putting at the top of my feed each day of late. But today’s caught my attention. It was six years ago today Nocturnal Origins (Nocturnal Lives Book 1) was first offered for sale. Back then, it was only my second book published. Since then, there have been other books, including three others in the Nocturnal Lives series as well as a novella set in the same universe. There have been other books as well and other series but it is Mackenzie Santos and friends that keep calling me back. So much so that I had to stop a couple of weeks ago and get down the first quarter or so of Nocturnal Rebellion, the next book in the series. I’m looking forward to getting back to it once I finish the final edits on Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2).

If you enjoy urban fantasy and police procedurals, please give Origins a look. Thanks!

Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

Halloween Reads

Halloween is just around the corner and whether your taste in reading runs to the truly scary, funny scary or something in between, there are a number of books out there for you. Over the next couple of days, I’ll be highlighting some books I’ve enjoyed as well as some of my own books (I know, but a writer’s got to promote).

First up are a couple of books by Kate Paulk.

ConVent (The Vampire Con Series Book 1)

A vampire, a werewolf, an undercover angel and his succubus squeeze. Whoever picked this team to save the world wasn’t thinking of sending the very best. But then, since this particular threat to the universe and everything good is being staged in science fiction conventions, amid people in costume, misfits and creative geniuses, any convetional hero would have stood out. Now Jim, the vampire, and his unlikely sidekicks have to beat the clock to find out who’s sacrificing con goers before all hell breaks loose — literally.

ConVent is proof that Kate Paulk’s brain works in wonderfully mysterious ways. A sarcastic vampire, his werewolf best buddy, an undercover angel and his succubus squeeze. The “Save the world” department really messed it up this time.

Impaler

Impaler by Kate Paulk revisits the tale of Vlad Dracul, also known as Vlad Tepes and Vlad the Impaler. This is the tale of historical fact mixed with fiction and a touch of fantasy. But this is most definitely not the tired tale of vampires skulking in the night, lying in wait for innocent victims. Impaler tells the tale of a man devoted to family and country, cursed and looking for redemption. December, 1476. The only man feared by the all-conquering Ottoman Sultan battles to reclaim his throne. If he falls all of Europe lies open to the Ottoman armies. If he succeeds… His army is outnumbered and outclassed, his country is tiny, and he is haunted by a terrible curse. But Vlad Draculea will risk everything on one almost impossible chance to free his people from the hated Ottoman Empire.

Nocturnal Origins (Nocturnal Lives Book 1)origins cover

Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

Witchfire Burning (Eerie Side of the Tracks Book 1)

Long before the Others made their existence known to the world, Mossy Creek was their haven. Being from the wrong side of the tracks meant you weren’t what the rest of the world considered “normal”.

Normal was all Quinn O’Donnell wanted from life. Growing up on the “wrong side of the tracks”, she had been the only normal in the family. The moment she was old enough, she left and began life as far from her Texas hometown as possible. Now she has a job she enjoys and a daughter she loves more than life itself. Their life is normal, REALLY normal, until her daughter starts calling forth fire and wind.

Quinn knows they must go back so her mother can help five-year-old Ali learn how to control her new talents. But in Mossy Creek nothing is ever simple. Quinn’s mother has gone missing. Secrets from Quinn’s past start coming back to haunt her.

And the family home is more than a little sentient.

Can Quinn keep everyone — particularly Ali — safe? And will she ever get back her illusion of normalcy?

When a book becomes a series — Nocturnal Lives

Yesterday, I started a series of posts on how I wound up writing four different series at once. It wasn’t something I did by plan. It just happened. You see, my muse is an evil creature who likes to torment me by enticing me with one book and then, as that book nears its end, letting me know that it really is just the beginning. The first time it happened, I figured it was a fluke. Boy was I wrong.

The first time it happened was with Nocturnal Origins (Nocturnal Lives Book 1). That book was born out of the desire to write a police procedural/mystery but with a supernatural element to it. Unlike so many urban fantasies and paranormal romances, the existence of shapeshifters was not known to the public-at-large. The main character, Mackenzie Santos, thought they were nothing more than things of bad Hollywood movies. Even after she is attacked one night and “died”, only to wake up in the morgue several hours later — almost scaring the poor morgue attendant to death in the process — she didn’t think she was anything more than lucky. Then, when she started waking in locations different from where she went to sleep, and without any clothes on, she wondered if she was losing her mind. Even when she realizes that she is turning furry and there are others like her, she’s not completely sure it isn’t all some madness induce nightmare.

But through it all, she has a duty to perform. A serial killer is hunting on the streets of Dallas and it’s her job to find him before he can kill again. When that serial killer turns out to be another shapeshifter, well, life just go real.

When I first finished Origins, indie publishing hadn’t really taken off. So I went the way so many authors have over the years. I sent it off to agents and publishers. There were the usual rejections. They hurt. No one likes hearing their baby isn’t beloved by all. But there were others who were interested. However, they always had something they wanted done to the book, something I wasn’t willing to do. One wanted more sex. Even then, this particular editor felt that if you had a shapeshifter, sex had to play a prominent role in the book, whether it progressed the plot or not. It didn’t matter that Mac had more than enough on her plate just trying to come to terms with what she had become. The last thing she needed just then was to get involved with someone. Another editor wanted me to completely rewrite the book, going from third person limited to first person point of view. Everything else was just fine. All I had to do was make that one “minor” change. Not only no but hell no because there was no guarantee of a contract after making such a drastic change.

Long story short, I brought Origins out with a small press and later, when the rights reverted back to me, I re-released it. Not once have I regretted those decisions.

However, once Origins was finished and I started trying to shop it around, I realized that Mac’s story was far from over. All I had done woith Origins was bring her to the point where she was beginning to accept what she was. But there were a number of questions raised in it that still needed to be explored and answered. That’s how Nocturnal Serenade (Nocturnal Lives Book 2) was born.

Yes, it was still a police procedural. There were still crimes to be investigated and solved. But also introduced Mac’s mother and grandmother, both of whom have a great deal to explain — like why they never told Mac she came from a long line of shapeshifters. This book also gave more of an insight into pride dynamics. In other words, Mac’s world was expanding and that, in and of itself, needed to be told.

Along about this same time, I wrote a novella using Mac and company. While their shifter natures were mentioned and they were able to use some of their enhanced senses, the focus of the story was the crime and solving it. I wanted to see if I could write a police procedural without relying on Mac changing into a jaguar to take down the bad guy. Nocturnal Haunts (Nocturnal Lives) was that novella. It may, at some point in the future, be expanded into a full novel but I’m not sure.

Mac wasn’t done, not by a long shot. One of the main points Mac made in both Origins and Serenade was that their kind had to be more careful now than ever before. In this day and age of smartphones and Youtube and security cameras everywhere, one slip was all it would take for their secret to get out. Add to that the advances in forensics and, sooner rather than later, someone would realize shifters existed. That meant they had to be prepared. Would they allow themselves to become the victims of a modern day witch hunt or would they start preparing the way for them to reveal themselves under their own terms and in such a way a panic didn’t result?

Nocturnal Interlude (Nocturnal Lives Book 3) begins to answer those questions. What neither she nor those closest to her know is that a group of shifters has already started making those inroads. Unfortunately, there is another group with another goal in mind. When their kind goes public, they want it to be in such a way that shifters become the predominate species. That puts the two groups on a crash course and Mac finds herself smack in the middle.

As with the other books in the series, there is a crime to solve. Only this one hits closer to home than ever. At a time when Mac should be celebrating one of the happiest times of her life, she returns home from a well-deserved vacation to discover that her partner and best friend has been abducted. Worse, Pat is only one of several, most of whom Mac knows, who have gone missing while she was gone. If that wasn’t bad enough, she then discovers that her own squad had been ordered not to tell her what happened. Needless to say, Mac is not happy and she is soon digging into what happened.

By the end of the book, she knows more about the two sides than she ever wanted. She also has to make a choice, one that will impact not only herself but those closest to her. She can choose to do what she has advocated all along, that the shifters find a way to ease their way into the public eye or she can sit back and go along with the powers that be. The former is, in her mind, not only the right thing to do but the smart thing. However, it also is a step that doesn’t just toe the line of shifter law but steps over it. But the other would seal the death warrants on an untold number of both shifters and normals. That’s something she can’t do.

Nocturnal Challenge (Nocturnal Lives Book 4) is the latest book in the series. It continues the conflict set up in Interlude. Choices are made and there can be no going back. Even as she knows she is doing the only thing she can and still live with herself, Mac wishes things could go back to the way they were before that fateful night of her birthday celebration when she’d been attacked. A nice murder without any sort of supernatural element to it would be great. That’s especially true when it comes to the politics of the job. Screw up there and she could get fired. But screw up shifter politics and she could die.

If Interlude hit close to home, Challenge walks through the door and sets up house. Even as Mac and the others wait to see if Pat and the others who had been kidnapped will survive the injuries inflicted on them by their captors, Mac is faced with trying to keep her family safe. That includes her younger brother and sister. Like their mother, they have not shifted and they don’t really understand the danger they all face. Thinking she knows better than her older sister, mother and grandmother, Abby leaves the safe house and falls into the hands of the enemy. Let’s just say a pissed off big sister who also happens to shift into a jaguar isn’t someone to mess with.

There will be at least one more book in the series. The plot is already talking to me. It is my hope to have it out by the end of the year but it may be the first quarter of next year. In the meantime, the other books are available in digital format from Amazon, with no additional drm added, and can be ordered in print format from most booksellers (note: the last two titles will be available later this month in print format).

Endings and beginnings

coverThose of you who follow this blog know that I published Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1) this week. Usually, once a book goes live, I give myself at least a couple of days — and preferably a week — to decompress and get my head into the next book in the queue. This time, I haven’t had that luxury. Myrtle the Muse is an evil Muse and she loves to make my life interesting. Add to that Spring in Texas which means storms and the first of what will most likely not be mornings when I wake up to find one of the bedrooms and bathrooms flooded.

The flood is actually the easiest to deal with. Pre-coffee this morning, I had moved furniture, pulled back carpet and padding — making the decision that when it comes time to replace the carpet, something else is going down because this got old years ago — and setting up the fans to run after wet vaccing the area. Once the area is somewhat dry, I’ll be pulling the wooden “floor” of the built-in clothes hamper to make sure no water is standing under it. Then I’ll pull baseboards and start the dry, seal and paint for them. Oh, and then there is the window that has to be checked for leaks and the windowsill to be stripped, sealed, painted and sealed again. Since I know what usually happens when I get this detailed with the work, it will wind up with the bedroom, dressing room and bath being repainted as well.

Oh, and let’s not forget about pulling up and replacing the tack strips for the carpet.

Yep, wood floors or even just sanding and sealing and staining the slab is looking better and better.

Now, all that is doable and, frankly, welcome because I do most of my best plotting when doing physical labor.

Myrtle the Muse, on the other hand, is the problem. I had gotten a very good start on Nocturnal Challenge. Almost 15,000 words done in a day and a half. The voice was there. The plot was there. I was excited to see what was in store next for Mac and company.

And then Myrtle reared her twisted muse head and everything came to a screeching stop — again. Why? Because Myrtle decided I needed to go straight into Dagger of Elanna, the sequel to Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1). When I tried telling her that I needed to finish both Challenge and Honor from Ashes, she smiled and crossed her arms and shook her head. Nope. She wasn’t going to let me. No how and no way.

So I argued and begged and pleaded and my evil muse refused to be moved by my tale of readers waiting for their next UF or mil-sf fix. No, I needed to write fantasy and this fantasy in particular. Finally, after more pleading and whining and not a little whinging, she relented just a little. She will let me work on the other projects but only on the weekends. I have to work on Dagger of Elanna during the week.

Then the storms hit last night and I swear Myrtle had something to do with it. There will be no writing for at least most of today and all of tomorrow because of what needs to be done to clean up after the water. Worse, I can see her smiling and there is something she’s muttering about knowing Mother Nature and I’d better get used to not trying to fool with her.

Help! I’ve fallen into a bad remake of an old commercial.

Any way, that’s my story and I’m sticking with it. Help this beleaguered writer by buying one or more books. I have paint to buy and windows to seal. Oh, and cats to feed. Mustn’t forget the cats.  😉

 

Promotion

(This is a repost of today’s Twisted Writers entry.)

I remember when I was younger, there was a locally owned bookstore that I loved to frequent. The owners were always there. The employees knew the stock and could carry on an intelligent conversation about books. They knew the different genres and could make informed recommendations about what to read. After your first visit or two, when you returned, you would be greeted by name and whoever was on duty at the time would ask if you had read the latest in your favorite genre.

But there was something else about the story that stands out. This little hole in the wall often had well-known authors in for book signings. I didn’t think much about it then but now, as a writer, I do. Back then, I simply appreciated the fact I would get to meet a favorite author and have her sign a book — or three. Now those memories are merely a sign of how things have changed in the publishing industry.

Word of mouth in publishing is just as important, maybe moreso even, than it is in any other industry. You see, when a publisher says it will promote your book, tat doesn’t mean you get to go on a book tour or that you will have TV and radio ads or even print ads. Not unless you have been tapped to be the next Stephen King or you are already a best seller. What it means is there will be the basic information sent to the buyers for bookstores and maybe a few trade ads and reviews. A number of authors I know have had their publishers say they want the author to go on a tour but that it will be on the author’s own dime.

That is one reason why, as an indie author, I tend to smile and shake my head when someone tells me I would get so much more promotion for my work if I went the traditional route. I know better. But it does leave me, and all the others like me, having to find ways to get that word of mouth going. The problem is, I would much rather be writing.

Fortunately, Amazon has offered writers a couple of ways to promote our books. The only catch is that the title has to be exclusively on Amazon for it to qualify. If a title is enrolled in the KDP Select program, those Amazon customers who are members of the Kindle Unlimited program can borrow our books for free. The nice thing about this is, we still get paid as long as the customer reads a certain percentage of our book. The icing on the cake is that some of those customers will turn around and purchase the book, so we get paid twice.

KDP Select also allows us to offer our books for free or put them on what Amazon calls a countdown program for up to five days every three months. While I don’t recommend putting the same titles on sale or for free that often, it is a good promotion tool. It can help spur lagging sales and it can help by allowing you to temporarily drop the price of a book when you have a new book in the series coming out.

So now I can hear you asking why I’ve taken time to tell you all this. Well, that’s simple. This is my word of mouth to you. I currently have three books I’m doing a promotional deal on. The deals run through tomorrow. Each of the three are first books in a series. Each series will have new titles coming out between now and the end of the year. Besides, after Tax Day, I figured everyone needed a break  ;-)

HuntedHunted (Hunter’s Moon Book 1)
(Written under the pen name Ellie Ferguson)
Free through Sunday

When Meg Finley’s parents died, the authorities classified it as a double suicide. Alone, hurting and suddenly the object of the clan’s alpha’s desire, her life was a nightmare. He didn’t care that she was grieving any more than he cared that she was only fifteen. So she’d run and she’d been running ever since. But now, years later, her luck’s run out. The alpha’s trackers have found her and they’re under orders to bring her back, no matter what. Without warning, Meg finds herself in a game of cat and mouse with the trackers in a downtown Dallas parking garage. She’s learned a lot over the years but, without help, it might not be enough to escape a fate she knows will be worse than death. What she didn’t expect was that help would come from the local clan leader. But would he turn out to be her savior or something else, something much more dangerous?

nocturnaloriginscoveralternatenewNocturnal Origins (Nocturnal Lives Book 1)
(Amanda S. Green)
99 cents through Sunday

Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

coverforvfaVengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1)
(Written under the pen name Sam Schall)
99 cents through Sunday

First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back. Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long. But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.

Weekend Promotion

I haven’t done a promotion for awhile, so I thought this weekend I would. The first books of each of my three series are available at discounted prices. If you like paranormal romance/suspense, urban fantasy/police procedural or military science fiction, there is something for you.

HuntedHunted (Hunter’s Moon Book 1)
(Written under the pen name Ellie Ferguson)
Free through Sunday

When Meg Finley’s parents died, the authorities classified it as a double suicide. Alone, hurting and suddenly the object of the clan’s alpha’s desire, her life was a nightmare. He didn’t care that she was grieving any more than he cared that she was only fifteen. So she’d run and she’d been running ever since. But now, years later, her luck’s run out. The alpha’s trackers have found her and they’re under orders to bring her back, no matter what. Without warning, Meg finds herself in a game of cat and mouse with the trackers in a downtown Dallas parking garage. She’s learned a lot over the years but, without help, it might not be enough to escape a fate she knows will be worse than death. What she didn’t expect was that help would come from the local clan leader. But would he turn out to be her savior or something else, something much more dangerous?

nocturnaloriginscoveralternatenewNocturnal Origins (Nocturnal Lives Book 1)
(Amanda S. Green)
99 cents through Sunday

Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

coverforvfaVengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1)
(Written under the pen name Sam Schall)
99 cents through Sunday

First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back. Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long. But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.

Setting Goals

One of the things I’ve noticed with a lot of writers, myself included, is that all too often we don’t set hard goals for ourselves. We have the best of intentions. We’re going to finish that book or story we’ve been working on. We’re going to submit to X-number of markets and to to Y-number of conventions. Some of us even set word count goals. We’re good about sticking to these for a bit and then, slowly but surely, those goals begin to slip and we fall back into the old habits.

Over the past nine months, I’ve been working hard to set and keep certain writing-related goals. As a result, my productivity has increased and, along with it, my sales. Both are very good things. But it has also been difficult, especially because there have been a number of external forces doing their best to keep me not only from meeting my writing goals but my work goals as well. So the goals sometimes get pushed back — but only temporarily. And, more importantly, now that life seems to finally be getting back to normal (knocks on wood), I can see the light at the end of the tunnel on work goals and that means the writing goals will be able to fall into place as well.

So, what are my writing goals?

I almost hate to put them down because, sure as I do, something is going to happen that will throw a wrench in the works. However, I’ve learned something else the last few months. If I share my goals and let other people help hold me accountable for them, I do tend to get back on track quicker than when it was just me. It’s not quite as easy to procrastinate when people are asking what the status is on a certain project.

My first goal is to finish Hunter’s Pride, the third book in the Hunter’s Moon series written under the Ellie Ferguson pen name. Pride is currently 3/4 finished and should be going out to beta readers and my editor in a week or so. This book is a bit different from the others in the series and that’s made it both more difficult and more fun to write.

After that is the sf/space opera I’ve been snippeting here. My best guess on it is that it is 2/3 finished. Yes, I’m working on them at the same time and, yes, there is some mental whiplash but so far it is working. This particular project is the one that has me scratching my head though. I’m torn between putting it out on my own or through NRP. Another part, the fangirl part, wants to submit it to Baen and take my chances there. So, I’m probably going to ask my mentor and a few others what they think when I finish the rough draft. There are pros and cons to both approaches but, as I’ve said here and on Mad Genius Club many times, Baen is the only traditional publisher I’d consider right now. The others I’m watching to see how they adapt to the change in market.

I estimate the space opera will be finished in another month to six weeks.

After that, I will probably go back to writing something under the pen name. There is a real mental switch I throw between writing as Ellie and writing as myself. (Hey, I’m a writer. I’m allowed to be a bit weird.) Besides, my editor — more precisely, the treasurer for NRP who also happens to be her husband — wants me to do a follow-up to Wedding Bell Blues. WBB was written basically on a dare and has been both the bane and the blessing of my writing life. It proved to me that I can write outside the sf/f genres I had been doing and tossing under my bed for years. It also proved that I could make good money as a writer. But romantic suspense with a touch of humor was a stretch for me when I first did it. However, I know I can do it now. It’s just putting butt in chair and doing it.

The problem comes in with deciding if I want this third book in the year’s goal to a true sequel to WBB or just a “related” book. My gut feeling right now is to make it a “related” book where the lead characters from WBB are walk-ons only and not the main characters in this new work. I even have the first 100 pages or so of something already written than could be adapted. Yes, one of those popcorn kittens might actually find a home with this.

The final book I’d like to finish before the end of the year is the follow-up to Nocturnal Interlude. For one thing, I have already been threatened with bodily harm if I don’t bring the next book out soon. For another, I want to write this book. This whole series has been a project of my heart. It is the one series that, while it sometimes throws me for a loop as I write the books, it isn’t a chore to write. That’s not to say I didn’t fight Interlude more than the other titles in the series. I did. But that was because I didn’t want to follow my gut on it and that is never smart. I’m starting to understand that there are times I just have to trust myself and my muse and quit second-guessing everything as I write.

I can hear some of you thinking I’ve lost my mind. After all, I’m proposing writing somewhere between 300k-400k words this year. When you put it that way, it does appear to be a daunting task. However, when I have a plan and I have a feel for a book, it is very doable. In the last two and a half weeks, I’ve written 57k words on Hunter’s Pride in only a few hours a day.  A lot of it has been written in waiting rooms and other places that aren’t my normal workspace. Then there’s the fact that I am 65k words into the space opera. Those are huge chunks out of my goal already.

More importantly, I’ve discovered that doing this blog daily has helped my word count as well. It is as though it has become the jump start to my day. I can do a 1k word post in half an hour or so — it depends on how many interruptions I have and how often I have to get up to let the dog in/out/in and get more coffee.

So, what is my standard day? I get up, pry the eyes open, check the news — after getting coffee — and then do my post. The next few hours are spent on work for NRP. Then I sit down to write. Around five (sometimes sooner depending on housework needed, errands to run, etc), I stop for the day and spend the evening with family. After everyone goes to bed, I write or edit for another hour or so. I haven’t changed my sleep patterns nor have I given anything up. In fact, I am doing more and getting more accomplished by setting goals and routines.

Here’s crossing my fingers to hope I can keep up with it.

 

Believability

No, I’m not getting into the debate about whether or not an author can create a believable character simply because the author isn’t female or gay or non-white or whatever. No, this is about making sure your characters and their motivations are believable in the world you create in your novel or short story. It started when I was reading a series of reviews on Goodreads about 50 Shades of Grey and it became fodder for the blog when I was reading a book description this morning.

At the risk of insulting a lot of folks out there, let me begin by saying I hated 5o Shades. I found the books poorly written and even more poorly edited. I couldn’t stand the main characters. Worse, I couldn’t believe in them. It wasn’t that Anastasia was still a virgin when she graduated college. No, it was that she could barely use a computer and iPod. She’s sheltered and sexually naive and yet she falls into a relationship with Grey that would have most women running for the hills. As for Grey, well, that man needed to be in intensive therapy for years. Beyond that, as much of an ass as he was portrayed to be, can you really tell me some gossip rag wouldn’t have outed him for what he was years before Ana came into the picture?

In other words, I couldn’t believe their characterizations or motivations.

Then there was the book description I read this morning. It was for an urban fantasy, maybe a paranormal romance. I’m not sure because I didn’t even finish reading the blurb. It was enough to know that the main character is a vampire who, for whatever reasons, is out there hunting down her own kind to protect humans. There’s nothing to allude to the possibility that she does so because she has some honor-bound duty to or even because if vampires are allowed to “breed” unchecked, the humans will soon become extinct and then what will the vamps do for food? No, all we’re told is that she does this and now the vamps and werewolves are looking at forming a truce of sorts and that mustn’t be allowed at all.

So right off the bat, I don’t know what the character’s motivation might be. Without even a hint of what it might be, I don’t want to read the book because it doesn’t make sense. Even in a blurb, there has to be that element of believability to pull your reader in. Just putting in conflict isn’t enough — at least not for me.

That’s an issue I faced when I started writing Nocturnal Origins (and the subsequent books in the series) and then again in Hunted and Hunter’s Duty . I had to figure out how to make the main characters seem like they could exist in our world and yet have these extraordinary things happen to them. With Origins (as well as Nocturnal Serenade and Nocturnal Interlude) it meant finding a way to have Mackenzie Santos realize that her life and her world have been turned upside down and will never be the same again. It isn’t an easy transition for her, especially since it means she finds herself having to find a way to reconcile the “monster” she’s become with her duties as a cop. She wrestles with the possibility that she’s simply losing her mind in the first book. After all, people don’t turn furry on nights of the full moon, at least not without donning a costume. Even after she begins to accept her shapeshifter nature, she has to deal with a sense of betrayal because her family hadn’t warned her. What she doesn’t do is automatically accept and revel in what she is becoming nor does she forsake the oaths she took and still holds dear. Instead, she does her best to find a way to hold true to those oaths without bringing danger to herself or the others like her.

The Hunter’s Moon series is a bit different, hence the pen name, in that it is closer to paranormal romance than straight urban fantasy. The characters in the first two books have been raised knowing they are shapeshifters. They know there are others like themselves. And, as with the Nocturnal Lives series, the world-at-large is unaware of the existence of shapeshifters and that is how the shifters would like it to stay, at least until they find a way to reveal their existence without sparking a war between shifters and normals.

In the Hunter’s Moon series, the challenge has been not to fall into the trap so many authors have when it comes to paranormal romance — my characters having sex just because it’s expected. The books are far from a series of sex scenes being tied together with a little bit of plot. I’ve worked hard to make the main male and female characters be complements of one another. Both are strong, in their own ways, but also have faults and weaknesses. More than that, they have motivations that most of us can understand — the need to keep your word after saying you’d do something, doing your job and duty, protecting those who aren’t able to protect themselves, family duty and honor.

If I can’t believe in a character or her motivation, I’m not going to enjoy the book. So, if you have a vampire out there killing her own kind, give me a reason. I know why Blade was out there hunting the vamps. It made sense. Don’t give me broken characters with broken motivations that could never exist more than a few days in this world without either breaking down completely or being splashed across the gossip columns for all to see.

Edited to add:

Many thanks to Jason Cordova and the rest of the Shiny Book Review folks for their review of Nocturnal Interlude today.

 

Monday Morning Links

I’m more than a bit under the weather this morning and I do NOT have time for it. I think it’s mainly allergies but right now I want to claw out my eyes, rip out my sinuses and freeze my scratching throat. The result is that I’m not functioning well enough to formulate a coherent post this morning. However, since this is a holiday for those of us in the U.S., I thought I’d post links to some books you might like.

Cedar Sanderson is one of my fellow bloggers at Mad Genius Club. She is also one of the best new voices in fiction that I know of right now.
Pixie Noir

You can’t keep a tough Pixie down…

Lom is a bounty hunter, paid to bring magical creatures of all descriptions back Underhill, to prevent war with humans should they discover the strangers amongst them. Bella is about to find out she’s a real life fairy princess, but all she wants to do is live peacefully in Alaska, where the biggest problems are hungry grizzly bears. He has to bring her in. It’s nothing personal, it’s his job…

“They had almost had me, that once. I’d been young and foolish, trying to do something heroic, of course. I wouldn’t do that again anytime soon. Now, I work for duty, but nothing more than is necessary to fulfill the family debt. I get paid, which makes me a bounty hunter, but she’s about to teach me about honor. Like all lessons, this one was going to hurt. Fortunately, I have a good gun to fill my hand, and if I have to go, she has been good to look at.”

Another member of the Mad Genius Club is Kate Paulk.


ConVent (The Vampire Con Series)

A vampire, a werewolf, an undercover angel and his succubus squeeze. Whoever picked this team to save the world wasn’t thinking of sending the very best. But then, since this particular threat to the universe and everything good is being staged in science fiction conventions, amid people in costume, misfits and creative geniuses, any convetional hero would have stood out. Now Jim, the vampire, and his unlikely sidekicks have to beat the clock to find out who’s sacrificing con goers before all hell breaks loose — literally.

ConVent is proof that Kate Paulk’s brain works in wonderfully mysterious ways. A sarcastic vampire, his werewolf best buddy, an undercover angel and his succubus squeeze. The “Save the world” department really messed it up this time.

If you like historical fiction or if you are a fan of the Six Wives of Henry VIII, check out Sarah A. Hoyt’s No Will But His.

Kathryn Howard belongs to a wealthy and powerful family, the same family that Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s great love originated from. From a young age, her ambitious relatives maneuver to make her queen. Brought up in a careless manner, ignorant of the ways of the court, Kathryn falls victim to her kind heart, all the while wishing she could be the wife of Thomas Culpepper.

Dave Freer, another of the Mad Geniuses, is one of my favorite authors. He spins wonderful tales and I have never been disappointed by anything he’s written. If you like satire, urban fantasy and detective stories, check out Bolg, PI: The Vampire Bride.

A humorous, satirical noir detective urban fantasy, set in a small city in flyover country, which has an unusually high population of Trolls, werewolves, fairies and a dwarf.

Private Investigator Bolg, a Pictish gentleman who happens to be vertically challenging, a self-proclaimed dwarf and tattooed so heavily he appears blue, finds himself called on undertake paranormal cases: in this case tracing the Vampire bride’s absconded or kidnapped groom.

The groom should have been a troll by the name of Billy Gruff, the manager and owner of the Ricketty-Racketty Club – a topless bar and nightclub. Bolg finds himself, and his client embroiled in murder, extortion and a Celtic wizard. The latter is supposedly helping him, but wizard’s help is not always what it you think it will be.

Finally, there is the self-promo. You knew I couldn’t close without mentioning my own books.

Nocturnal Origins (Nocturnal Lives)
(Book 1)

Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

Nocturnal Serenade (Nocturnal Lives) (Book 2)

In this sequel to Nocturnal Origins, Lt. Mackenzie Santos of the Dallas Police Department learns there are worst things than finding out you come from a long line of shapeshifters. At least that’s what she keeps telling herself. It’s not that she resents suddenly discovering she can turn into a jaguar. Nor is it really the fact that no one warned her what might happen to her one day. Although, come to think of it, her mother does have a lot of explaining to do when – and if – Mac ever talks to her again. No, the real problem is how to keep the existence of shapeshifters hidden from the normals, especially when just one piece of forensic evidence in the hands of the wrong technician could lead to their discovery.

Add in blackmail, a long overdue talk with her grandmother about their heritage and an attack on her mother and Mac’s life is about to get a lot more complicated. What she wouldn’t give for a run-of-the-mill murder to investigate. THAT would be a nice change of pace.

Nocturnal Interlude (Nocturnal Lives) (Book 3)

Lt. Mackenzie Santos swears she will never take another vacation again as long as she lives. The moment she returns home, two federal agents are there to take her into custody. Then she finds out her partner, Sgt. Patricia Collins, as well as several others are missing. Several of the missing have connections to law enforcement. All are connected to Mac through one important and very secret fact — they are all shapechangers. Has someone finally discovered that the myths and bad Hollywood movies are actually based on fact or is there something else, something more insidious at work?

Mac finds herself in a race against time not only to save her partner and the others but to discover who was behind their disappearances. As she does, she finds herself dealing with Internal Affairs, dirty cops, the Feds and a possible conspiracy within the shapeshifter community that could not only bring their existence to light but cause a civil war between shifters.

Enjoy and I’ll be back tomorrow!

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