English Majors Unite!

The other day there was a bit of a kerfuffle on Twitter. I know, quelle surprise!

A very successful writer was asked for a bit of advice from a young fan as a new English Major.

The writer’s response? English Major = “Do you want fries with that?”

I mean.

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She told the fan to get a degree in something that would get them a lucrative job and write on the side.

Yeah. Sure. Some people totally do that. But to completely belittle the fan’s already chosen path while also tearing down the service industry? REALLY?

You won’t be surprised to find out that I, myself, was an English Major. I have a loverly BA in English with a concentration on Creative Writing. A major I created myself because it didn’t exist at my school at the time. I was very lucky that my adviser was also the department chair at the time so getting it approved wasn’t quite the battle it could have been.

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I am damn proud of my degree. I have both dyslexia and dyscalculia. Believe me, getting dyslexia under control has been much easier than my dsycalculia–there was no way I was going to be a math or science or business major. But guess what? As a self-published writer, I am running my own business. My husband also runs his own business, but I also help with that. I run the office for both of us. And my degree helped me, believe it or not.

English degrees teach you critical thinking, creative solutions, and so much more.

Now, do you need an English Degree to be a writer? Of course not. I know many writers who are also something else. Writing isn’t paying the bills just yet for them. But it might some day.

Did I need an English Degree to be a writer? To be a good one, yes.

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I can say with a little confidence that I had “raw talent” when I was younger. When I got to be creative with my English assignments, I always did well. I actually remember my senior English AP teacher writing “I can’t wait to see what happens next!” on a paper I turned in. It was an amazing feeling. I really thought I could write. I thought I was a good story teller.

Then I went to college.

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I had professors who were published novelists and playwrights and poets.

And they let me know raw talent wasn’t enough then and it wouldn’t be enough in the future. They tore my papers apart. I had one professor (the aforementioned adviser) who knew I was turning in the first drafts of papers and would automatically deduct a full letter grade because of it. I went to him, demanding to know why I kept getting B’s on my papers and he told me. He told me even if the paper was an A on the first try, that just told him the second try would be that much better.

My poetry was ridiculous. It was flowery and vague, like I didn’t want my reader to know what I was talking about. My professor shredded my poems until I learned to paint a damn picture that he could see.

I am the writer I am today because of the lessons those professors gave me. It was well worth the time and money. Maybe I would have gotten to that point as an English Minor, or just taking a couple of classes for fun, who knows? But I know being an English Major changed my life and I am damn grateful for it.

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Do you need to be an English Major to be a successful writer? Of course not. Or maybe you do. None of us are the same. Some of us need the instruction, some of us don’t. Some of us will write a NYT bestseller in our 20s and others will do so in their golden years. You are special and different and need to decide what is right for you. Don’t let some random person–even if they are a NYT bestseller themselves–tell you what is the right path for you.

Oh, by the way, I was a waitress all through college. It was the most thankless, degrading job I’ve ever had and I worked in insurance after college. Never tear down the service industry. Customers are assholes and service industry people are overworked and treated like shit every day. Everyone should have to wait tables on Mother’s day, or run a cashier over the holidays. People would be far, far nicer and learn some damn manners.

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Now. Thanks to that English degree, I’m putting out my 16th novel (under this name), and it is up for pre-order now! If you were a fan of my Ash & Ruin Trilogy, this is a companion novel, maybe you’d like to take a peek?

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Where am I? Who am I? What now?

There’s always this strange feeling that comes with finishing a book. Whether it’s just after finishing the rough draft and tumbling down the mountain of the denouement, or you’ve finally conquered the many-headed monster of line edits and plot holes, or finally, finally typed those two little words: The End. But the feeling comes and it’s one of bewilderment.

You’ve been working so hard, from idea conception, to finally hitting the last period, or – if it’s a series – you got to finally write The End, when you’re done, you’re not quite sure what to do with yourself. There’s no word goal that needs to be met. No deadline looming. No emails from your editor, with an attachment that now has more Track Changes than original work. No acknowledgements to write. Nothing but trying to enjoy the idea that you get to take a break. But it’s strangely hard to take that break. I, for one, tend to feel guilty.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I take a break and I damn well enjoy it. I catch up on some reading, be it novels or beautifully drawn comics. I enjoy the slow sipping of my coffee, rather than the bleary-eyed chug only to find I’ve let the stuff get cold. I watch some guilty pleasure T.V. I stay in my pajamas by choice. Or maybe I don’t and I take a shower and do my hair and feel like a person again. I go out to dinner with my hubs to celebrate.

But after a day or two, I feel guilty. Which is so strange.

I mean, when you work for someone you’re supposed to get a vacation, right? And we’re not talking a day or two. You get some time to decompress and go do something you don’t normally do because, damnit, you’ve been working hard (maybe).

So I just published the last in a trilogy. I will say that, of all my work, I am most proud of this body of work. The Ash and Ruin Trilogy, I think, is my best work so far. But I will tell you this, it is a dark, mean story with a scorched earth and blood. There are dead-eyed monsters with rattling, plague-spreading breath and monsters that look just like you and I. And each installment took little pieces of me with them, every day writing, every day editing, they took pieces of me.

And when I came to the end of the third book, that last day, I could see the horizon – it was about ten thousands words in the distance and I knew I didn’t want to quit until I reached it. So, over the course of the day I wrote some 12,505 words and the last two were “The End.” I nearly collapsed. I almost had to crawl to get out of my office at the end. I don’t even remember the rest of the night, but I felt like I’d been in battle with my characters and I’d somehow dragged my body, beaten and bloody, out of those pages and found my way home.

And now it’s published. I finished revising the rough draft of another book just the other day, so I told myself I could take a little time to enjoy this week and this last publication. So, I read some beautiful comics, I finished a book I’d been reading, I got a fricken massage today, I gave myself a pedicure. But you know what?

I feel guilty.

But some characters are already starting to talk to me, so the tiny break was a good thing. So, take your breaks, kick that guilt monkey off your back, sip your coffee, because more words are coming. More goals. More deadlines. More edits. If you’re a writer, you’re gonna write. But you deserve that break, just like I did.

Now, if you like monsters, and heartbreak, and bloody adventures, and scorched earth apocalypses, please, help me pay bills and feed my dogs by clicking on your favorite retailer’s link and maybe buy a copy.

 

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Cover Reveal: Age of Blood

Age of Blood (Ash and Ruin #3) by Shauna Granger

Hope is a dangerous thing, but powerful. Hope keeps you going. Hope can keep you alive.

But hope can shatter your world.

Kat and Dylan have found a home, but the monsters are still out there. The pox and plague still ravage the world. They have hope of finding a vaccine, but their encampment isn’t equipped to develop it.

Dylan is still too weak from the pox to leave the encampment, so Kat must decide between staying by his side and protecting her last remaining family member as he leaves to find supplies. Separated for the first time since they came together, Kat and Dylan will have to fight their own battles to save what is left of their bloody world.

Kat will have to hold on to hope that she has anything left to save and someone to come home to.

If she can survive.

AGEOFBLOODAvailable 5/5/2015

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About the series:

World of Ash – book 1

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There are two inherent truths in the world: life as we know it is over, and monsters are real.

The Pestas came in the night, spreading their pox, a deadly plague that decimated the population. Kat, one of the unlucky few who survived, is determined to get to her last living relative and find shelter from the pox that continues to devastate the world. When it mutates and becomes airborne, Kat is desperate to avoid people because staying alone might be her only chance to stay alive.

That is, until she meets Dylan. Dylan, with his easy smile and dark, curly hair, has nowhere to go and no one to live for. He convinces Kat there can be safety in numbers, that they can watch out for each other. So the unlikely couple set off together through the barren wasteland to find a new life – if they can survive the roaming Pestas, bands of wild, gun-toting children, and piles of burning, pox-ridden bodies.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Smashwords

Time of Ruin – book 2

TORThe world has ended, and hope is the most dangerous thing left.

Battered and bruised after barely escaping San Francisco with their lives, Kat, Dylan, and Blue press north – desperate to reach the possibility of a new home.

But strange, monstrous ravens are tracking the remaining survivors, food is becoming scarce, gasoline is running short, and people are becoming suicidal, making survival almost impossible.

And the Pestas are growing bolder. Somehow, their numbers are growing.

The further north they go, the harder it becomes to ignore the signs that they’ve made a fatal mistake. Kat must face the impossible truth that there is no escape, there is no safe haven, and their worst nightmares don’t come close to their new reality.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Smashwords

About the author:

6FTWnj-KLike so many other writers, Shauna grew up as an avid reader, but it was in high school that she realized she wanted to be a writer. She released the first installment of her Paranormal YA Series, The Elemental Series, Earth, on May 1, 2011 and has since released four sequels, with the series coming to an end with Spirit. In December of 2013 she released the first in her Paranormal Post-Apocalyptic trilogy (Ash And Ruin Trilogy), World of Ash. Be sure to also check out her newest series: The Matilda Kavanagh Novels about a spunky witch just trying to pay her rent in West Hollywood. Shauna is currently hard at work on one too many projects, trying to organize the many voices in her head. It’s a writer thing.

Stalkables:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

About the Cover Artist Stephanie Mooney:

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I am a 25-year-old graphic designer, artist, and aspiring author currently living in Cincinnati, Ohio. I’m a renaissance girl — a lover of all things creative and artistic. From the moment I learned to use my hands, I was writing stories about princesses and sketching ballerinas. I guess I never really stopped.

Most of my training has been informal, and many of my skills are self taught. In 2006-07, I spent a year interning at a church in Louisiana where I worked in their art and design department. In July 2007, they hired me as one of their designers. I worked there for three years, gaining experience in graphic design, advertising, set building, event planning, and product design. From there, I began my career in freelance design.

Many of my clients are indie authors looking for affordable cover designs. I love working with authors and getting excited about their stories with them. I’m still building my web portfolio, but I really enjoy designing and developing websites as well.

Stalkables:

Website | Flickr| Twitter | Instagram

Writing writing writing

Happy Thursday my loverlies! The week is nearly over, huzzah!

This week has been equal parts awesome and stressful. Awesome and stressful because I started writing my sixteenth novel. Yup. Sixteenth. Mind, I write under this name and under an alter ego, so a couple of those novels are under a different name, but all told, I have a YA series that had five installments, an NA trilogy, an Adult UF series that has four completed books (this one I’m starting is the fifth in that series) and then my alter ego has written four novels.

When I finished writing my fifteenth novel in mid December I was totally spent. I wasn’t burnt out, because I hadn’t overdone it over the course of 2014 but I had still written a vast number of words. I was just happy I’d finished before the holidays so I could actually enjoy them. But then January came around and I was thinking about writing, but an editorial deadline was looming for that 15th book and I knew I didn’t have it in me to start a fresh book while still working on that one. Normally I can edit one while writing another, especially if they’re different worlds because it’s like getting breaks from each of them, but not this time.

This time I needed to re-read and go over the rough draft and it was all I had in me. But because I didn’t split my time, I got it done in record time and was able to get it to two betas before my editor. And I was a wreck. That book was the final in my Post-Apocalyptic trilogy. Hands down the hardest project I’ve ever written. And I was terrified about the response I would get from my betas. Closing a series is terrifying because the last thing you want to hear is the dreaded, “Wait. That’s it?”

So I sent it off and prayed. But I didn’t write. I didn’t outline. I did THINK about writing. I knew there were three possible stories for me to start, but my mind just wouldn’t get to the deciding part. And then I heard from my first beta. She’d finished reading in record time, too. And she loved it. Holy crap. Yes, she had some constructive criticism to offer me, like any good beta, but as a whole and as the end, she was on board. HUZZAH!

But still. No new words. No new world opened up for me. So I worked on the suggestions the first beta gave me and waited. I didn’t have to wait long. And again, the feedback was good! Fantastic even! And she had some more constructive criticism on different parts of the book that made me say, “YES! That is totally missing from the book! Brilliant!” So I worked on those edits.

But no new words. But suddenly I knew which story I wanted to write. And I was able to sit down with a cuppa and some research and a fresh legal pad and started writing an outline for this sixteenth book. It took about a week to write the whole outline, but by the end of the week I was excited and confident about it. Yes, this is the one, for now.

Maybe I was worried I’d tapped the well. Maybe I was afraid I’d get negative feedback and the dreaded, “Wait. That’s it?” from my betas. Maybe I needed that boost of confidence that the well wasn’t dry just yet. Or maybe I just needed a full six weeks away from daily word counts.

But on Monday I sat down and I wrote the first two thousand words of the new book. I’m taking my time because sometimes you just need that. So if you’re stuck, maybe you’re stuck for a reason that has nothing to do with “writer’s block” and everything to do with giving yourself a little break and a little boost of confidence. So take it. Don’t feel guilty about it. Your work will be better for it.

So. Speaking of all these books. I do have a new one coming out tomorrow! Whoa! If you’re in the mood for a little witchery and magic and some Valentine’s Day hijinks, might I suggest picking up my latest Matilda Kavanagh Novel?

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And our Emmie Mears has a shiny new book out too! Check out her badass heroine as she smites some Hellkin! You can get both books for the price of one movie. That ain’t too shabby.

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Finding Inspiration

As writers, we are expected to be a fount of imagination and stories. But even the most prolific writer can come to the well of inspiration and find it dry every now and then.

Supernatural, prophet, Chuck

When you’re a full-time writer, like me, you seem to always be writing, to always be creating, coming up with new ideas and always moving forward. I have friends who are not “big readers” but who follow me on Facebook and see me posting about the projects I’m working on (yes, plural, there’s always more than one). And when I see them in real life they always have a comment like, “I don’t know how you write so much!” The funny thing is, it doesn’t always feel like I’m writing very much.

I take breaks between projects – and sometimes that’s the hardest thing for me to do. I finished a book during Camp NaNo in July, so I took a week and a half off when I was done. I didn’t look at any other project, I didn’t print this last one off to revise, I didn’t touch a legal pad to start a new outline for the next project.

I pulled out my omnibus edition of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman Chronicles and started reading it, finally. I went to the bookstore with my mom and picked up a copy of Splintered and started reading it. I sat on my couch and watched TV. I went out to dinner with my husband. I went surfing. I tore out all the dead plants from my garden thanks to this drought. I worked out. I spent time with my dogs.

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And you know what? I felt a little guilty. It seemed so decadent not to wake up and go to my desk and start working. It felt strange not to write for so many days in a row. Maybe if we’d gone on vacation it wouldn’t have registered, but because I was home, I felt like I should be writing.

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But you know what else happened? My fount of inspiration started to fill again. Glistening waters full of ideas began to bubble up inside of me. Some of you know I just released the sequel to my Paranormal Post-Apocalyptic story last month. Well, I’ve been dreading – DREADING – starting on the final book because I had no idea what was going to happen or how it was going to end. Then, standing in the kitchen in the middle of this self-imposed break, the whole plot struck me like a bolt of lightning and I just knew what was going to happen. My panic totally melted away. Then a few days later I thought of the idea for the fourth book in my other series. And a few days after that I got an idea for a whole new book in a whole different universe with new characters.

Yeah, we always seem to be writing, but we shouldn’t be. Everyone needs and deserves a break. You find inspiration in many places, sometimes it’s a song on the radio, sometimes it’s a book you’re reading, and sometimes when you’re not looking for it.

Have you ever had inspiration strike when you least expected it? Do you remember to give yourself breaks?

 

Shameless Self-Promotion: Shauna’s Edition

If you’ve been following me on any social media site, you know by now that my sequel to World of Ash, Time of Ruin, went live on Tuesday. We all talk about how difficult writing is, and it is, but some books are easier than others and some just kill you a little bit, steal a piece of your soul with every page. The Ash and Ruin Trilogy is the latter for me. That’s why I talk about it so much. I’m just so glad for each book to be complete and out in the world. I’m glad I wrote these books, but I will be glad when they’re over because they take so much from me. But that doesn’t mean I’m not excited to see people reading the, so in that vein, here is all the info you need!

If you enjoy post-apocalyptic adventures with monsters and just a touch of romance, please check them out!

The first book, World of Ash, can be found here:

WOA (1)

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, iBooks, Kobo

Blurb:

There are two inherent truths in the world: life as we know it is over, and monsters are real.

The Pestas came in the night, spreading their pox, a deadly plague that decimated the population. Kat, one of the unlucky few who survived, is determined to get to her last living relative and find shelter from the pox that continues to devastate the world. When it mutates and becomes airborne, Kat is desperate to avoid people because staying alone might be her only chance to stay alive.

That is, until she meets Dylan. Dylan, with his easy smile and dark, curly hair, has nowhere to go and no one to live for. He convinces Kat there can be safety in numbers, that they can watch out for each other. So the unlikely couple set off together through the barren wasteland to find a new life – if they can survive the roaming Pestas, bands of wild, gun-toting children, and piles of burning, pox-ridden bodies.

The second book, Time of Ruin:

TOR

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, iBooks, Kobo

Blurb:

The world has ended, and hope is the most dangerous thing left.

Battered and bruised after barely escaping San Francisco with their lives, Kat, Dylan, and Blue press north – desperate to reach the possibility of a new home.

But strange, monstrous ravens are tracking the remaining survivors, food is becoming scarce, gasoline is running short, and people are becoming suicidal, making survival almost impossible.

And the Pestas are growing bolder. Somehow, their numbers are growing.

The further north they go, the harder it becomes to ignore the signs that they’ve made a fatal mistake. Kat must face the impossible truth that there is no escape, there is no safe haven, and their worst nightmares don’t come close to their new reality.

My Writing Process – Blog hop

Hello all! Today I’m joining in on the “WIP Blog Hop” as I was tagged by Nicole Evelina. You can check out her own post about this here.

Basically I’m going to tell you about my writing process and what I’m working on right now. Hopefully you find it interesting and, maybe, even a little helpful in your own process.

  1. What am I working on?

WOA (1)The simple answer: the sequel to World of Ash, my Paranormal Post-Apocalyptic NA novel. I am at that weird place of finishing my own first draft revisions before sending it off to my editor. My editor will get her paws on it this Tuesday and she’ll send it back to me, bleeding with red ink, before I send it to betas.

 

 

  1. How does my work differ from others of this genre?

In a few ways actually. First, the age category: New Adult. My main characters are all hovering around the age of 20, which fits nicely in the New Adult category (too old for Young Adult, not quite old enough for Adult). NA is still a new landscape and some books are leading the charge, but most of the more successful of these books are in the Romance genre. Frozen_itstrueloveNot all, but most. My series, while it has a strong Romance subplot in it, is not a Romance. It’s Paranormal and Post-Apocalyptic.

Secondly, it differs in the Post-Apocalyptic genre. I went a totally different way with this. You’ve seen so many zombies, government take overs, revolutions, nuclear wars, man-made catastrophes that destroy the world, I didn’t want to rehash the same story.

In my story, the end of the world comes on the back of plague bearers taken from Scandinavian folklore: Pestas. Cloaked creatures that breathe pestilence and death, stealing through the night to claim their victims and then let urban population do the rest.

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  1. Why do I write what I do?

This was a new world for me when I first sat down to write World of Ash. My bread and butter is Urban Fantasy with many people and creatures that have powers and magic. In this world, only the Pestas wield any kind of supernatural powers. It’s difficult, I have to admit, to hinder my characters by keeping them normal and just trying to figure out how to survive in this new world. But, one day, after finishing two UF manuscripts, back to back, I had a vision of my main character, Kat, staring into a broken mirror. The room around her showed signs of a fire, her eyes were bloodshot and shadowed by fear and lack of sleep, and her hair was stringy and greasy. I knew the world had ended when I saw her in my mind and I didn’t know how it happened. I wanted to know.

Sometimes a whole story will coalesce in your mind and you just have to sit down and get it out before you lose it, but sometimes a character will just walk into your mind, ready to tell you their story. Kat came to me, with her story of the end of the world, and I wanted to write it down.

4. How does my writing process work?

Oof. That’s a complicated question. It has changed so much over time.

When I first started out, I was pantser – I just sat down and wrote, without an outline or notes, just writing until I hit my goal. Back then, if I tried to write with an outline, I lost the immediacy, the urgency, of getting the story out. That’s how I wrote my first three and a half books.

Now I like outlines. Now I almost need an outline to work. When a story comes to me, whether the nugget of an idea, a character, or a whole thing, I sit down with a legal pad and a pen and take a day or two or a week, to get that outline written. Sometimes it’s detailed, sometimes it’s just a skeleton to keep me on the right road through the mountains, but it’s something to follow. Then, when I know I have enough of an outline to get me going, I take one day (just one!) to build a playlist for the book. At least an hour’s worth of songs, that capture the tone of the book. As I write, as I learn the characters’ personalities, as I learn the details of the relationships, I’ll add more and more songs.

On that same day, I’ll head to Pinterest and start an inspiration board. This is a new one, but it really helps when you have a big cast of characters or multiple series you’re working on – you can pin pics of people who look like your chars for reference later, and you can pin locations and structures that help you visualize what you’re writing about.

Once all that’s done, it’s time to write. And write. I treat writing like a job and go to work every day of the week and take the weekends off. I set a word goal for myself, usually 2,000-2,500 words and I write (usually in sprints with other writers), until I hit that goal or surpass it, if the words are flowing. I don’t make excuses to not write. I don’t’ wait for my muse. I don’t have to have the perfect conditions. I just turn on the playlist and put fingers to keys and get that damn first draft written.