Jilly: Picking Your Brains

Is anyone up for a spot of title brainstorming? I’d appreciate some help.

I’m planning to publish my first book, The Seeds of Power, before the end of the year (much more to follow on that subject soon). All being well the sequel, The Light of Calder, will follow in 2020.

Told you that to tell you this: I want to write a short story (which may grow into a novella) that sits between The Seeds of Powerand The Light of Calder. I know the bare bones of the story. I can visualize the cover. But I can’t find a good title, and it’s driving me crazy.

The books are fantasy adventure romance in a swords-n-sorcery setting vaguely similar to Tudor-era northern England or Scottish borders. The most important commodity in this world is elan, an imaginary medicine created by concentrating life energy into specially grown beans. The mysterious transformation process changes the beans from everyday foodstuff into hard-shelled, fragrant, shiny golden nuggets known as pulses. A pulse of elan can be grated and boiled into a tonic for internal use, or added to a poultice for external application. However it’s used, elan boosts the body’s own natural healing powers and gives near-miraculous results, which makes it more valuable than gold. The only people who know how to make elan are the Edevald family, rulers of wealthy, powerful Caldermor.

The Seeds of Poweris about Christal, a strong-minded princess who’s determined not to marry (she has excellent reasons) and who justifies her single status by becoming an expert cultivator of rare plants. Her plan works fine until Prince Daire Edevald unexpectedly proposes marriage because he needs her to fix a problem with his secret elan beans.

The Light of Calder is Daire’s story, about his attempts to lift the Edevald curse. The men of his family burn brightly but do not live long. Common gossip says the Edevalds made a deal with the gods, and their short life span is the price they paid to gain the secret of elan. The Light of Calder is a priceless jewel, the Edevald family’s greatest heirloom, and so much more than merely the centerpiece of the Calderran royal regalia.

My plan is for the Story in the Middle to show the problem with the secret bean plants and explain how the solution Christal offers motivates Daire to seek out someone who can help him solve the mystery of the Edevald curse.

The title for the new story should be The Something of Something.

Continue reading

Michaeline: A Tarot Spread for a NaNo Writing Prompt

Nine card spread of tarot cards, explained in text

This is the Smith-Waite Tarot Deck (Centennial Edition) in a tin. It’s a very traditional deck full of tarot symbols. (Image by E.M. Duskova)

I created a tarot spread to help spark a new story for National Novel Writing Month, and I thought I’d share it with you. The spread is quite simple. The left side represents my protagonist, the right side my antagonist, and the bottom concerns the plot point.

Layout:

2    5

1    4

3    6

7 8 9

1. This is the heroine of my story. The seven of cups suggest many choices. The Waite-Smith Little White Book contains the keywords of: fairy favors, imagination, through a looking glass. Also, with that many cups, I thought my heroine might be a bartender. And because my imagination is a little perverse, I thought a tee-total bartender would be a lot of fun to write.
2. This card represents her goal, or the overlying theme of her existence. Bad news, censure or conflict are the key words for the eight of swords. She’s bound by a lot of different ties. (To be honest, this is a difficult card to work with in the position of “goalz!” It suggests a heroine with no agency – which is a constant problem with my work!)
3. This card represents her motivations, or the underlying theme of her existence. The wheel of fortune’s key words are Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Today is one of the days at work that I look forward to every year–the annual Holiday Lunch.  It is an early Thanksgiving, with turkey and all the trimmings, put on by management as a way of saying ‘thanks for all of your hard work’.  It’s also a chance to get together with other folks in the company, over brimming plates of food, to mingle and maybe even enjoy a piece of pie (or two).

My co-workers tend to roll their eyes at my fondness for the event.  To them it is apparently on the same level as saying I like cafeteria food or maybe airplane meals.  I’m pretty sure they’re planning to order lunch from a local BBQ place instead.

Well, their loss is my (leftover) gain.  The food may not reach the Michelin star level or taste like Grandma’s home cooking, but it’s abundant and provided by a really good local restaurant, whose cornbread stuffing is amazing.

It’s kind of fun to be served by executives too.  What I actually like though is the idea behind the event.  We’re all so busy with our day to day tasks that it’s easy to forget we’re all part of the same company.  It’s nice to have a brief break to pause, look up, and reconnect.

Of course a downside of the lunch is the almost overwhelming desire for a nap once it’s all done.  I’m guessing napping wouldn’t go over very well in my afternoon staff meeting.

I better make sure to have coffee with my pie.

Once my fun-filled workday is over, it will be time to refocus and get today’s NaNo words on the page.  My goal for the month is ’30 short stories in 30 days’.  I think I’ll see what I can come up with today, using the writing prompt and random words below as a starting point.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Kay: Writing Retreats

This is the home of authors Stephen and Tabitha King in Bangor, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

Now that we are in the month of NaNo, many of us are hunkered down, grinding out a daily 1,667 words letting our imaginations take flight in a concentrated, one-month writing extravaganza.

You can maybe tell this is not my thing.

However, I am deeply attracted to the idea of a writers retreat, where people can go and maybe write or maybe just cogitate or brainstorm. I like the idea of getting away from daily life, a healthy disruption that removes us from our routines and can jar those neurons into bouncing in new directions.

So here’s a retreat I’d like to try: Continue reading

Elizabeth: NaNoWriMo Pep Talk

My Knight in Shinning Armor is doing his best to keep me writing.

As I write this post, it is Day 5 of National Novel Writing Month.  According to my trusty calculator, that means that everyone who is playing along should have somewhere around 8,335 words on the page.

How’s that working out for you?

I am just wrapping up a 5-day weekend.  When I scheduled this time off from my day job months ago, I had visions of long productive hours of writing and a substantial word count.

You’d think I’d have learned by now.

For some odd reason, the more time I have, the less time I actually spend writing.  On the plus side, I got a tremendous amount of other things done during my time off, clearing the way for great bounds of productivity in the coming days.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Continue reading

Jeanne: Too Many Buts, Not Enough Therefores

I recently read a book that didn’t quite work for me.

The writing was strong and the author did a masterful job of pulling all the diverse plot threads together, but something about the story somehow missed. It took me a couple of days of analyzing it to put my finger on the problem: too many buts, not enough therefores.

If you’re not a long-time follower of this blog, that phrase may not make sense to you. (It may not make sense even if you are.)

Let me explain.

The single greatest “Aha!” moment during my time in McDaniel’s Romance Writing Program was hearing Trey Parker and Matt Stone talking about “but and therefore.” Here’s a short (2:14) video of the two men explaining this rule to a classroom of students at NYU.

Here’s an even shorter recap: When you lay out the arc of your plot, the individual events should connect to each other via “but” or “therefore.” Like this: Continue reading

Justine: The Exhilarating, Nerve-Wracking, Terrifying Moment of Publishing a Book

Last week was a monster moment for me. Late Saturday night a week ago (when I totally wasn’t expecting it), I got an email from KDP telling me that my first book, His Lady to Protect, was available for pre-order on Amazon.

Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 4.53.30 PM

AACKKK! THAT’S MY BOOK!

A multitude of emotions swirled through me. Happiness. Fright. Panic…lots of panic. I can’t take this book down. I really DO have to finish it now!

I cried, laughed, danced around the kitchen, shared my news with my husband (who was busy playing Fortnite with the kids, so it was a bit anti-climactic at first), and told my critique partners, who have been my day-to-day sanity over the last several years. They cheered!

When I’ve been out and about and friends ask about my book (better yet strangers that I meet when I’m in an airplane!), it’s nice to be able to tell someone that your book is up for pre-order (because all I’ve been saying for the last 6 years when asked if I’m published is “not yet”).

But now the real scary work begins. I received edits from my developmental editor (she made great suggestions) and it’s time to get my rear in gear and make changes to my manuscript. Once that’s done, I have to get my book loaded for pre-sale on the other e-retailers, plus come up with a marketing plan, get my full-wrap cover done, solidify my release schedule, and keep working on my second book.

In other words, only a few moments to…well…enjoy the moment. I’m sure more exhilaration, anxiety, and fear will abound when my book is actually out there for the world.

Have you hit “publish” yet? What emotions did you experience?