Some Good News in a Dark Time

I had been thinking of a few other topics for this blog post but when I got home last night and learned about the latest school shooting, everything else went out of my brain. (Sidenote: I am so glad I finished school before all of this started happening and that I’m not having children. I don’t know how parents and kids today deal with all of this.) I couldn’t think of a thing that seemed to matter in light of the state of our country right now.

Then this morning, I woke up and realized that what we need right now (besides action, rather than thoughts and prayers) is good news. So, I’m going to share my big news today. I’m in no way saying it is as important as these other issues, but it’s a bright spot at least.

My book, Daughter of Destiny, has won the North Street Book Prize!

It is one of only three winners: nonfiction/memoir, general fiction and YA. They put it in the YA category. It’s not a YA book, but given Guinevere’s age (11-15) and the fact that it is the “coming of age” part of her story, I can see why it landed there. But, I don’t care what you call it, as long as you like it, and the judges obviously did. Here are a few quotes from the official critique:

“Nicole Evelina’s Young Adult novel Daughter of Destiny is a lyrical, imagistic retelling of the Arthurian legend…The writer’s skill in creating a lushly imagistic fantasy world was a major reason for her first place award. Nicole Evelina has suceeded in creating a YA novel that is a pleasure for adults as well as teenagers to read. Although I am not normally a reader of fantasy fiction, I loved being immersed in the misty, magical land of Avalon.”

Here’s the whole critique, in case you are interested. And here’s the official press release.

This huge for me, as big of a deal as my two Book of Year designations. I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I am that my debut novel continues to receive accolades more than two years after it was published.

In light of this win, I have point out one irony. The very first rejection Daughter of Destiny received was from an agent (who shall remain nameless) who said it “read like a bad YA novel.” I kid you not. And here it won in the YA category. 🙂 Just goes to show that you shouldn’t listen to the nay-sayers!

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AMBER & DUSK Cover Reveal!

Gentle readers, the day has finally come! After nearly three years of plotting, drafting, rewriting, revising, rewriting, rewriting, oh and a little more rewriting, AMBER & DUSK is finally turning into a real book! With just about nine months to go until release, I wanted to share the official (and, if I may say, glorious) cover with the world! Scroll down to enjoy a short synopsis of the novel as well as an exclusive excerpt and, of course, the final cover!

Blurb:

Sylvie has always known she deserves more. Out in the permanent twilight of the Dusklands, her guardians called her power to create illusions a curse. But Sylvie knows it promises her a place in Coeur d’Or, the palais of the Amber Empress and her highborn legacies.

So Sylvie sets off toward the Amber City, a glittering jewel under a sun that never sets, to take what is hers.

But her hope for a better life is quickly dimmed. The empress invites her in only as part of a wicked wager among her powerful courtiers. Sylvie must assume a new name, Mirage, and begin to navigate secretive social circles and deadly games of intrigue in order to claim her spot. Soon it becomes apparent that nothing is as it appears and no one, including her cruel yet captivating sponsor, Sunder, will answer her questions. As Mirage strives to assume what should be her rightful place, she’ll have to consider whether it is worth the price she must pay.

A vivid, extraordinary YA debut.

Excerpt:

I wasn’t highborn. Or if I was, whoever sired me disowned me, dumping me in the shadows at the edge of the world like I was worthless. The thought stoked the ember of rage burning always within me, a bright kernel hard and polished as a ruby.

When I opened my hands illusions spilled out, beautiful and terrible and impossible to control.

Trees of kembric, draped in garlands of jewels.

Bouquets of skyflowers.

Bracelets of stars.

I wasn’t worthless. I wasn’t an aberration, a freak, a monster. I was a legacy.

I ran away from the Temple of the Scion because I knew I deserved better than merely being tolerated. Much as I’d tried to follow in their footsteps when I was young, I had never belonged with the Sisters, and they had certainly never loved me. They had taught me many things: that to laugh too loudly in the presence of the Scion was a sin, and that the bruises and scrapes inflicted by the ignorant village kids were my own fault, and that dreaming of anything outside the dank walls of the temple was too dangerous to be allowed.

They had taught me that being alive was not the same thing as living.

They had tried to stop me from leaving, when I finally fled. They had burned the Imperial Insignia and tried to lock me in my room, panic churning their studied tranquility into chaos. But I’d escaped. Jagged satisfaction tinged with guilt burned through me when I remembered how I’d repaid a lifetime of their indifference.

But I deserved the chance to find where I belonged. To find a world where my gift — my legacy — did not frighten superstitious Sisters or enrage cruel children. To find a world forged in sunlight and honed on dreams, as perilous and intoxicating as the colors spilling jewel-bright from my fingertips.

Cover:

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Pre-order here:

Amazon  /  Book Depository

Edits in 3…2…1…

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The other day I had a guest post over at the Rainbow Romance Writers blog. As often is the case, whatever I’m struggling with in my writing ends up in a blog post. It’s like my mind needs to process through my fingers before I can move forward .

The guest post was about editing, and described some of the strategies I use when I’m moving from rough draft to polished product. I have a novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo that I’d like to send to my agent, but it needs revision first. I sat down, made my plan, and sent off the post.

But I’ve spent this whole week spinning my wheels, which tells me that no matter how good my intentions, I was heading in the wrong direction.

I’m working with a rough (rough!) draft that has some good moments and characters I like, along with comments from my writing partner and alpha reader, Irene Preston. Irene and I have written two novels and two novellas together, and there’s no one on the planet who knows my writing better.

And let’s just say I’ve come up with stuff she’s liked better.

My grand plan involved writing a synopsis to help sort out the plot threads, then revising scene-by-scene based on a complicated set of steps that I won’t bore you with here. After that, I’d planned to send it out to beta readers, and with their feedback in hand, start grinding down on the words themselves, looking for repeats and crutch words and passive voice.

Yeah, you know, I’ll still probably do most of that, but the synopsis thing was tripping me up. I got talking with my friend Kelly Jensen (who’s also the blog mama for the Rainbow Romance Writers) and she suggested I use a spreadsheet, with lines for each scene and columns for plot points and other assorted details.

And you know what? That’s what I needed to unstick myself. Here’s a quick screenshot of what I have so far…

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It’s not much, yet, but it’s a step in the right direction and such (SUCH!) a relief. If you’re interested, hop on over to the RRW blog for a more detailed look at my editing process. Otherwise, I’ll send you a virtual high five, and TGIF!!

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Oh, and before I go, Irene and I have a new novella that’ll be available as a giveaway this Valentine’s Day! Haunted is set in our Hours of the Night world but features different characters, and a lighter paranormal tone. I’ll put the blurb & Goodreads link below, and if you’re interested, come hang out with us on our Facebook page – After Hours with Liv & Irene – because for sure you’ll get the link for the free download!

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Haunted on Goodreads

Noel Chandler had a good reason for leaving the L.A.P.D. for New Orleans, but when he walks into a burned out Garden District mansion, he discovers there are some things he can’t outrun. The spooks can find him anywhere.

As the resident historian for the cable show Haunts and Hoaxes, Professor Adam Morales keeps an open mind about the supernatural. Or that’s what he tells himself, until he meets a man who puts that principle to the test. Noel’s smart, sexy, and has killer cop instincts. One glance from his bedroom eyes has Adam ready to believe anything.

But is Noel haunted, crazy, or just another hoax?

My New Venture: Teaching Online Courses

Every year in autumn as soon as the weather gets cool, I get the same urge: to teach. I think this stems from all the years of going to back to school. Well, that and for a long time now I’ve wanted to be a college professor. The bad news is I can’t afford to go back to school (again – I have 2 bachelors and a masters degree), so that PhD is going to have to wait.

But this past fall I embarked on a new venture aimed at satisfying my inner teacher (while hopefully earning some extra money): creating online classes. After researching many possible platforms, I chose to go with Teachable. Then I developed a series of 12 business and craft classes to launch my school, Professional Author Academy. But between my full-time job and releasing a book in November, I’ve just now launched the classes.

I love this option because it gives me a chance to take all the presentations I’ve done for speaking engagements (and a few new ones) and expand them out to people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to come see me speak. And it gives me something to do with all this knowledge and experience in my head. (In addition to the degrees I mentioned earlier, I have 15 years of professional experience in marketing. Here’s my whole list of qualifications.)

I’m a firm believer that one should never stop learning, so I’ve created classes for different skill levels from aspiring author to multi-published, as well as indie and traditionally published. These courses can be taken anyone:

  • How to Write Back Cover Copy That Sells
  • Marketing Plans for Authors
  • Business Plans for Authors
  • Branding for Authors
  • Websites and Social Media for Authors
  • Self-Editing
  • Writing Historical Fiction
  • Setting and Description

These are geared only to indie authors:

  • Steps to Self Publishing
  • Self Publishing 101
  • Audio Books for Indie Authors
  • Legal Issues for Indie Authors

See a complete course catalogue, including course descriptions. Samples are available for each course (just click on the course you’re interested in from the main page for Professional Author Academy and you’ll see a video on the top left) so you can see what you’re getting before you commit. Plus, if you want to experience my online teaching style, the How to Write Back Cover Copy That Sells course is free, so there’s no risk to you.

Convenient and Reasonably Priced
I know what it’s like to try to fit learning into a life already filled with work, family, writing and other responsibilities. That’s why they are short; most are around 30 mins and none exceed 2 hours. Plus, they don’t require any homework and can be taken at your own pace. All courses include a welcome video and narrated Powerpoint slides. Many also include a recommended reading list and other handouts for reference or use as a worksheet or template.

In addition, they are cheaper than your average college course, which runs about $1,500/course (at $500/credit hour), or even many Writer’s Digest Online Workshops, which average between $200-$600+. I offer a tiered pricing structure based on the amount of information in each course. You can pay all at once or installments.

Mini – Free (so you can try before you buy)

  • Back Cover Copy That Sells

Basic – $100/course

  • Legal Issues for Indie Authors
  • Writing Setting and Description

Standard – $200/course

  • Audio Books for Indie Authors
  • Business Plans for Authors
  • Self-Editing

Advanced$300/course

  • Branding for Authors
  • Website and Social Media for Authors
  • Steps to Self Publishing

Premium – $500/course

  • Marketing Plans for Authors
  • Writing Historical Fiction

Premier – $1,000/course

  • Self Publishing 101 (This course is several courses in one, including Steps to Self Publishing, Business Plans, Marketing Plans, Legal Issues, Web and Social Media. If you bought the classes separately, you’d pay more than $1,400.)

To register, just head over to Professional Author Academy.

Stay Up to Date
I’m planning to add new courses several times a year, so if you’d like to be notified when there is a new course or a current course goes on sale, please sign up for my course newsletter.

But for now, since the classes are done, I’m going to take off my teacher hat and put my writer one back on. It will be nice to think about fiction for a while again! Mistress of Legend calls to me, as does Isolde’s currently untitled story.

Have you ever taken online classes? If so where? What was your experience like? Do you have questions about my courses? What other subjects would you like to see?

Spiderweb Thoughts–the first stages of a new book

Last we met I talked about how I wanted to start working on the outline of a new book. Well, I’m not quite to the outline part yet, but I am figuring out the book. I’m world building and character building. I’m figuring out where this book wants to go. It’s both fun and incredibly frustrating.

Every book I’ve written has been set in modern times and in Southern California–for the most part. But this book is going to be set in some make-believe world, which means I have to make this world and name it’s places and things. Holy crap that is hard. I’ve never appreciated how difficult it is to figure out names. No wonder people named places after kings and queens and no wonder there are so many First Streets and Main Streets and the like.

I’m cheating a little bit because I happen to have a very large, paper map of Ireland and I am using it to help me visualize this world. After all, I did go on a exploratory trip there last year to get into the pagan, witchy vibe of the story.

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I’m also figuring out my main character. I can see her in my head and she’s awesome. She’s a witch and she reads tarot. So I’ve dusted off my tarot cards to re-familiarize myself with that only to realize I’ve forgotten how much I enjoy doing it. So much so, I might start doing it a lot, for real people. Kind of a scary idea, but exciting too.

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I already had two decks, which I laid out a couple of spreads with, but they really weren’t doing it for me. So, I got a new deck and I am in love. It’s amazing how writing can bring new and old things into your life. I’ve missed reading tarot. It’s something the women in my family have done for years, my mother was quite adapt at it, but I sort of fell out of doing it before I gave myself the chance to see how good I could be at it.

But this new deck has inspired me and I’m giving myself permission to go at it my own way and it’s really working out for me.

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I’m excited to see where else this book will take me. But I also just want to start writing. I’m impatient to put words on the paper and see my word count start ticking away. But I want this to be good. I want it to stand up with the other fantasy books I love to read. I have to give it room to grow.

One thing I’m struggling with is deciding if it’s YA or Adult. I think it’s Adult, but my main character might be on the young side of adult, which might be what’s tripping me up. Though, I may be too hung up on that and just need to plot the book and figure that part out later.

I’m trying very hard to think this one through. I am a plotter-pantser, which means I take the time to loosely outline a book so I know the plot points and the beats I want to hit, but often when I’m writing and I get into a groove, things will morph and improvise and then I have to adjust the outline to work with the changes. I like this way of writing because I don’t limit myself, but with this new book, I want to make sure I have a really strong outline, a clear map, that helps me get through to the end. When  a book is a bigger, more epic fantasy you want to make sure you know where you’re going so you don’t get lost.

And, normally, by this point I know the ending of the book. But this time? I’m not sure yet. Usually I can see a still of the last, big scene in a book. It’s a perfect freeze frame and I know exactly what is happening in that moment so I just have to figure out how to get there from the start, but I don’t have that picture in my head yet. I think this book might be an ass-kicker.

I had no idea where this post was going when I sat down to write it, so I just started typing. I guess this is kind of a window in to the mind of a writer when we’re first figuring out a new project. It’s a little crazy, a little messy, but things connect. Like a spiderweb.

Books, man, they are strange, living things that really take over your world if you let them.

The Perks of Being a Writer

Ah yes, the glamorous life of an author. Isolation. Too much coffee. Waking up in the middle of the night with incoherent plot ideas and then not being able to fall asleep again. Google searches not fit to be seen by anyone, ever, including (or maybe especially?) the FBI. Pajamas all day, and not in a cute way. So why, you might ask, do any of us do it?

Excellent question, my friend. Since you didn’t ask, here are some (only mildly sarcastic) reasons why you too might consider joining the venerable ranks of writers everywhere.

It’s child’s play

200…In the most literal sense you can think of. Did you ever make up elaborate dramatic scenarios for your model horses? Play Barbies, except Barbie was an exiled warrior princess and Ken was her evil uncle? Act out ElfQuest scenes in the trees behind your house using butter-knives as swords?

If so, you’re in luck! Your inner child might be able to channel all that imagination into an adult occupation crafting something other people will want to read.

We’re all mad here

Worried your parents/significant other/coworkers will be a little concerned that you stayed up all night inventing place names for a world that doesn’t exist? Never fear, the writing community is here!

Whether it’s to whinge, swagger, brainstorm, or just commiserate about life, writing communities are ace. I’ve met so many amazing humans, both online and in person, who understand from experience what it is to have villains monologuing over coffee and imaginary romances interrupting dinner. Who dream in technicolor and then turn those dreams into something real.

You’ll get lost

2001We live in an era of GPS, of Siri and background location monitoring and having the news pushed directly to your phone. Our lives are on display on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter. We always know where we are. Where the closest sushi restaurant is. Hell, we even know where our friends are in relation to where we are!

Don’t you ever want to get lost? Here’s a thought–open a book. Better yet, open your mind. Let go of the real world and get lost in a world you create. There is fragility here, but there is also infinite possibility. And the best part? You can always find your way home.

You’ll live forever

Mortality is relentless, unyielding, inexorable. Part of being alive is the unforgiving fact that we all must someday die. But writing–writing! Think of all the cramped, dusty bookstores you’ve wandered. Did you ever pick out an ancient paperback, flipping through the pages and finding some word or phrase that called to you? Did you buy that book, read it, without recognizing the author’s name or knowing anything about their life?

With your words, you rage against the dying of the light. With your words, you outlive yourself. With your words, you have the chance to live forever.

Just kidding, I was actually referring to Edward Cullen.

You’ll be rich!

2002Oh, did you think I meant real money? LOL I say. LOL all day.

But you will be wealthy. Reach out and touch the gold of sunlight along a river you just invented. The bright silver of treachery–an unexpected knife in the dim. Jewels of worlds wink at you from the void–they belong only to you unless you choose to share them. This is real currency: getting  so deep inside yourself you find something you did not know was there.

What are your reasons to write? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

 

Resolution: The Act of Resolving

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Happy New Year!

That gif is a pretty accurate expression of my feelings for 2017. Get thee gone, year from hell! Although to be honest, mostly I sat inside my comfortable home, in my comfortable blue state, and watched my friends and fellow-citizens dodge the fall-out of this current administration.

I don’t personally have much to complain about, but because of that, I feel it’s even more important to keep my senators on speed dial.

But it’s January 1st, 2018! That annual clean slate where we all vow to be our better selves, at least for today. Do you make resolutions? I usually try to, and I figure if I write them down in a blog post, I’ll be more likely to keep them.

You’ll hold me accountable, amirite?

I looked it up, and the root of “resolution” is the Latin is “resolutio”, from “resolvere”. And according to the Latin Dictionary, resolvere is a verb that means to loosen| release| disperse| melt; relax; pay; enervate| pay back; break up; fin. I find the contrast interesting; the word’s root has to do with letting go, but we now apply it to a set of goals we clutch with grim determination.

But maybe there’s a seed of wisdom there. Maybe instead of adding to the list of things I want to accomplish, I should think in terms of what I no longer need.

For example, last year one of my resolutions had to do with diet. Starting January 2nd, I adopted the 5/2 eating plan. (That’s 2000 calories a day for 5 days a week, then 500 calories a day for the other two.) I’ve managed to stick with it, and in addition to losing 45 pounds, I’ve dispersed a whole lot of baggage around my body and my weight.

My commitment may have added to my to-do list, but as a result, I’ve let go of a serious source of stress.

Another of last year’s resolutions had to do with the current political climate. When 45 took office, I promised myself I’d do something every day to #resist. From the Women’s March, to calling my electeds, to putting my money where my values are, I’ve done my best to live up to that vow.

My most recent activity has been writing postcards to support Democratic candidates in contested states. I joined PostcardsToVoters.org, and now whenever I see a headline that makes me angry, I request another batch of addresses. It’s a small task, but it’s a way of paying back, of dispensing with helplessness and replacing it with hope.

Last year’s resolutions have become a way of life, but other than recommitting to them, I haven’t come up with anything new for this year. Well, other than that my basement could appear on an episode of Horders, and I pretty regularly beat myself up about that…

Bingo.

I hereby resolve to reduce or eliminate the self-flagellation that comes from having a basement I’m ashamed for strangers to see.

Now it’s your turn….

If you’ve got a resolution, either a commitment or a letting go, leave it in the comments! Either way, I hope 2018 brings you hope and peace and joy.