Hallowe’en Contest and Giveaway

Shauna is hosting a Hallowe’en contest and giveaway for a soon-to-be-published book! Come check it out!

The Musings of an Author in Progress

If you know me, then you know that my two favorite holidays are Hallowe’en, or Samhain if you like (I do) and Christmastime (or Solstice, if you like, and I do). Autumn starts this month, I celebrate six wonderful years of marriage with my hubs, and soon the temperatures will start to drop and everything pumpkin and spice will appear.

I Cannot. Wait.

In fact, I am so excited for the change in the season, I want to start giving out presents early!

Many of you know I am releasing a new novel in December, December 2nd to be exact. I’m pretty excited about this book. It’s a little different than anything I’ve ever written and I can’t wait for you guys to read it.

So here’s the contest: Pumpkin carving. Yes, that’s right. One of my favorite traditions of Samhain is carving pumpkins and letting the candles burn long…

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When the Going Gets Tough, Call the Winchesters

Having entered into a new stage of writerdom this year (having an agent and going on submission to editors), there is a whole new level of stakes that have appeared above my head. Figuring out what to write next has felt like choosing a major — for which I’m meant to spend months of time instead of scores of thousands of dollars.

It’s never easy, but folks, sometimes writing is just plain hard.

Supernatural, prophet, Chuck
Even Prophet Chuck gets it. And he’s got someone telling him what to say.

Yep. It’s tough. So I’ma lighten up your heavy load with some Supernatural GIFs today.

This month, it’s gotten to the point where if I so much as name a character, I feel like I deserve a parade.

Crowley, cookie, Supernatural

This way doesn’t get so much done.

We’ve all been through the parts of life that seem to just go smoothly. Work ticks along and pays you accordingly, friends smile and buy you beers, ideas go from swirly glitter to execution without trouble. And around every corner, you get to see this:

Dean Winchester, Supernatural, smile

That’s so much better than the days where nothing seems to work out. Twitter becomes as attractive as peanut butter to a hungry dog, and you spend hours trying to get it off the roof of your mouth so you can work but by that point you don’t even care anymore because you can write tomorrow.

There are days when life morphs into Cthulu and comes at you so hard that you can do nothing. NOTHING.

Ghost Facers, Supernatural

There are days where your packages don’t arrive and you step in dog poop on the way to work and sit on gum at the bus stop (and the bus doesn’t even arrive).

Dean Winchester, Must be Thursday, GIF, Supernatural

And then there are days when things seem okay, but inside, your heart sounds like the frontman of Meshuggah.

DeanScreamInternally

Those are usually the days that you see pie and this happens:

PieCloseUp

Wait, that’s every day.

When things get to that point, sometimes it can make you wonder why you wanted to be a writer at all. We pretty much sign ourselves up for a lifetime of self-flagellation. Why else would anyone ever submit their writing anywhere if every email notification makes you shriek and panic?

DeanSamScurred

Then someone asks us what our book’s about or invites us to a writing sprint, and we go all FBI-Cas…

CasFBI

Our inner monologues turn into the way Dean imagines Sam.

SamWhatAreYouDoing

And you pretend not to get it.

CasIDontUnderstand

 

Your inner monologue doesn’t take it well.

SamUnamoosed

But then something awesome happens. Your characters start blabbing in your head faster than you can write them down. You get an email that’s NOT a rejection. You painstakingly rat-a-tat-tat that last word of a novel.

SPNCastRegretNothing

For a moment, your brain gives you a hearty slap on the back.

DeanYoureAwesome

And you look at your accomplishments and think…

CasMeGustaAnd you realize for the 150 blobbityjillionth time that this is what you want to do. All the self-flagellating and stepped-in dog poop and life getting in the way and feeling like you’re bleeding on the keyboard — it all becomes worth it.

And that? It’s kind of like a parade in itself.

CasParade

Undead America: No Angels Cover Reveal!!

Hi there!

Many of you already know me as a girl who writes random posts here at the lovely Spellbound Scribes blog. But did you know I write books, too? (Actually, most if not all of us do…you’ve got a bunch of writing junkies managing things ’round these here parts!) But today I have a fun cover reveal to share with you, and also an introduction to my Undead America series as a whole.

Undead America: Zombie Days, Campfire Nights released last October as an ebook via MuseItUp Publishing. I like to think of it as a zombie book for people who don’t necessarily love zombies…because in Undead America, it’s not the zombies you need to fear. It’s the people. To check out more from Zombie Days, hop on over to my personal web site, where you can see the book trailer (Note: the “zombie mom” in the second scene? That’s me!!), put together last year by my extraordinary friend, Charlie Thiel.

Next month, Zombie Days will be released in print!! This is truly a dream come true for me, so keep an eye on my own site for upcoming events and contests and things.

BUT!!! Today is about the sequel, Undead America: No Angels!! Here’s what No Angels is all about:

Jenna, Sam and Lola were lucky to survive the horrors of a zombie-filled New Orleans, but they still have a lot to learn about living in Undead America.

First, you can never let your guard down.  Even when you think you’re safe, dangers lurk around every corner. Sometimes the dangers are from the undead, but more often they’re from the living.

Next, it’s easier to inspire a group to fight for their lives than to lead them through everyday hardship. For Jenna, the pressure of managing an ever-growing group of survivors may be too much to survive.

And finally, in Undead America, no one is quite what they seem. Everyone has something to hide.

From the bowels of a rundown farmhouse to the plains of Nebraska, from a leather-clad human monster to the tiniest of child zombies, there are truly no angels.

And now…the cover!!!

noangels1600x2400

I’m thrilled with this cover.  Marion Sipe, cover artist genius, handled both, and she had fun playing with the blacks/whites/reds that I requested for both. I think it turned out fabulous!

Please, let me know what you think!! I’d love to hear!

Book Club for Two

Hopefully this will be my husband and me in a few years. Photo by Nico Aguilera.

My husband and I are both voracious readers. And, since we’re married, it’s pretty clear we prefer each other’s company to everyone else’s. (I mean, if Nathan Fillion shows up on the door and says, “Hey, Kristin, you want to go out for a glass of wine and a trip to the craft store? My treat!”—well, I’m not gonna pretend that isn’t intriguing.)

But for the most part, the husband and I spend most of our time together.

We’ve long had trouble committing to joint hobbies, though. (Playing video games and watching Doctor Who just don’t quite cut it.) We tried tennis for awhile, but then we discovered that tennis is hot, sweaty work that requires chasing fuzzy balls around for long periods of time. Then we tried blending our own tea, but one cup of almond-lavender failure convinced us that maybe it was just easier and more fun to buy teas than make them.

So this year, as part of a series of New Year’s resolutions, we decided to read one nonfiction book together every month, and discuss it when we finished… We made it through a single book before we realized that our taste in nonfiction is just too different. (“You want to read about Eleanor WHO in the Middle Ages?!”

A few months passed with no joint hobbies, but this summer we signed up for a Coursera class about science fiction and fantasy. While the class itself was only okay, we discovered that reading books in our shared favorite genre and then analyzing them together was quite a lot of fun.

When the class was done, I proposed a trade: we read The Mists of Avalon together so that Drew could get an introduction to feminist fantasy and King Arthur, and in exchange, I would read a book of his choosing. In the end, he chose Dune, and it’s proved to be a far better read so far—though that’s a topic for another post.

While it’s hard to avoid gendered reading (i.e., Mists is a “girl book” and Dune is a “boy book”), especially since we’ve continued trading books, we’ve found that reading together opens us up to new interpretations of and realizations about the text that we might not have seen on our own. I flatter myself to think that with my literary training, I’ve given my husband new things to consider in reading one of his favorite books. And, together, we were able to puzzle out a few reasons why The Mists of Avalon continues to be an honored work of fantasy.

We’ve had a few rocky moments, too, of course. I may have said one or two many disparaging things about the main character of Dune and Herbert’s love of describing a tent entrance as a “sphincter.” And… well, no, I wasn’t particularly offended by Drew’s dislike of Mists, since I didn’t much like it either. But we’re learning to see books we know and love (or at least respect) through the eyes of a new and different reader.

Plus, it gives us something to talk about on the many miles we walk each night for our other hobby: fending off couch-butt.

Have you ever tried a joint reading-endeavor? How did it go?

What’s in a name?

We’ve been talking a lot about rules, expectations, etc when it comes to writing. Which got me thinking about pen names. When I first decided to pursue writing as a career I had a decision to make. What name did I use to write under? My name? Another? It’s a question I’ve seen many other authors ask as well.

There were a lot of reasons that went into my decision to use a pen name.

1. Genre: If I was going to write erotic romance, or something that might be frowned on by family then I wanted to keep it separate. Not that I was ashamed if I wrote erotic romance, but I for one hate seeing the look on my grandmother’s face when she hears that my stuff is pretty racy.

2. Work: I have a day job. Honestly, I wasn’t so much worried about the content as I was their reaction to me publishing and having a day job. A few of my co-workers made sure to point out that writing was a game. Not something I took seriously.

3. Success: When I first started pursuing this career if you didn’t sell a lot of books with your debut it made it harder to find an agent/publisher. Everyone wanted a “debut” author. And you could really only focus on one brand to build. It wasn’t common to cross genres.

These three reasons were more or less the catalyst for my decision. In the beginning I had no intention on cross promoting. As far as I was concerned, I would take on a whole new identity with my pen name.  But that’s not path I ended up following.

Now (only a few years later) those reasons no longer ring true for me. Crossing genres is more common. Agents are seeking out writers to offer representation. Publishers are doing the same. You can build a brand with a much wider focus than a narrow one as before. The point is that you are good author and put out solid work each and every time. And write what makes you happy. As for my family…well, my writing isn’t doing anyone any harm. I just make sure to tell warn them up front.

I’m not saying a pen name isn’t important. For some it very much is. Fortunately for me, I have the freedom to write under whatever name I want and can cross promote. So these days if someone asks my opinion on choosing a pen name, I say do what’s right for you. Make a decision that falls in line with your own personal career goals. Publishing is changing, providing more authors with more options. Whether or not you take a pen name is just another possibility for you to expand your horizons. It’s a lot of work to build two different brands, two different names. But there is some freedom to explore as well.

What about you? Do you write with a pen name? As a reader do you pay attention to the author name or just the story?

Jennah Scott aka Jen Duffey

Language as Art

So many words to learn!
So many words to learn!

When I was a wee little thing, I apparently didn’t have much use for language. According to my parents, while most other children were learning how to string sentences together in a useful manner, I was defiantly mute. I had long since discovered that I could get my point across just as effectively using non-verbal cues. For example, pointing to a banana and then pointing to my mouth was far less complicated than saying, “I’m hungry, may I have something to eat please?”

Fortunately, the phase didn’t last very long, and I eventually became a functional English speaker. Then, in elementary school, I started to learn some other languages; a few years of German, a bit of Spanish, a smattering of Irish. These classes were hardly formal language education; we mostly learned traditional songs, memorized poems, and listened to the fairy tales of the culture in question. But so began my love affair with languages, and my fascination with the language of, well, language.

In high school and college I took as many language classes as I could reasonably enroll in: French, German, Arabic. But I also fell in love with English as a language, too. And I began to learn that every language has its own personality, an identity that is both connected to and separate from the culture it comes from. French is a sensual language; the words are spoken from the front of the mouth, as though each word is being tasted and savored like a fine wine or a chocolate mousse. German is crisp, logical, utilitarian; perfect for a country whose trains are always on time. The sounds of a culture’s language echo with the history of its people and ring with their hopes and fears.

As a writer, language is central to everything I do. I write in English, of course, but my love affairs with other languages have taught me so much about the sounds of a language, and what to listen for even when I’m writing in my native tongue. Sentences and paragraphs have rhythms, and the tone of a word can shift depending on the other words surrounding it. Words have secret lives, layers of nuance that can both connect and dissociate them from their sisters and brothers on the page.

In French, there are two words that mean language. The first, langue, literally translates to tongue and refers to the series of words and rules that make up a language. The second, langage, refers to the forms of expression of a language; the verbiage, the style, the nuance. To me, this is an important distinction that I like to make about my own writing; English is a tool that I use, but the way in which I use it is my art. And that art is about listening to the words, hearing the langage instead of the langue.

Leveraging language isn’t always easy. I often find that I get caught up in my own language so much that I forget that my characters, their histories, and even the setting might demand a different language than the one I’m using. For example, if my main character has not had the benefit of years of formal education, why would his inner monologue be dotted with lyrical, erudite words? If a scene takes place on an icy, frozen landscape, perhaps flowing words with long vowels and warm connotations are not the best choice for describing action. It’s important to always listen and inhabit the language, choosing and living the words that are most appropriate and most natural.

And if all else falls, you can always point. Banana, mouth. That was easy!

Do you love language, both as a tool and an art? How do you use language in your life or your work? Leave your thoughts below!

The Parable of the Two Bowls

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

As writers, we live and ply our craft in an interesting juxtaposition: we’re told not to compare ourselves to others, while constantly being asked to write more and faster because XYZ famous author does it and the industry demands it.

Social media makes comparing your skills/speed with other writers extremely easy and tempting. If you hang out with other writers (as I do) you’re constantly seeing who has written X number of words, finished which book, or is being praised for his/her prolific-ness. And on top of that, you’re first to hear nasty rumors like the recent one that publishers expect four books a year now from certain genres.

Obviously, dwelling on this is not healthy – for your mental state or your creativity. But ignoring everyone else is easier said than done.

I never understood how NOT to compare myself to others until I ran across this Louis CK quote on Pinterest the other day: “The only time you should look in your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don’t look in your neighbor’s bowl to see if you have as much as them.” 

I have no idea why that particular metaphor worked when so many others haven’t. Maybe it triggers some long-forgotten religious theme in my upbringing or just touches on the basic human need for sustenance. But I’ve found myself going back to it time and time again as I read through the triumphs and successes of others. And it’s helping me to be happy for them, as I should be. It still doesn’t erase that little ping of envy when someone achieves something I’ve always wanted, but it helps.

And when I bother to take time actually look into my own bowl, rather than simply lamenting that it’s never full enough no matter what I do (we all feel that way sometimes, right?), I realize my bowl is doing pretty darn well. It may be like Merlin’s bag and keep expanding even as I fill it, but I should celebrate what I already have: I have two and half books under my belt, work with a fantastic agent, write for two blogs and have recently been able to give back to my local writing community by sharing my experiences. Not too shabby for a 34 year old.

There may be goals I have yet to achieve, but that’s actually a good thing. It keeps me going, keeps me motivated. I don’t know about you, but if I didn’t have those milestones peeking out of the mist of the future, I’d be tempted on some days to give up, or at least roll over and go back to bed when I should be writing. The shiny baubles in other people’s bowls that attract our attention whether we want them to or not should serve to make us more determined to be better, not weigh us down in jealousy.

And when I do spy the empty bowl of someone else who is wanting for something, it’s my duty to do what I can to help. That may be offering to beta read, start a writing sprint, or simply offer encouragement or listen. When that person’s bowl is filled, it’s time to get my eyes back on my own bowl and my fingers on the keyboard.

Wow, I feel like I’ve just preached a homily. Sister Nicole will shut up now. But I’d like to hear from you. What are your experiences like in comparing yourself with others? What tricks have you found? Does the Louis CK quote resonate with you? What advice do you have for others struggling with this?