Monday, November 2, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015!

I recently started an online writing group and it has done wonders for my motivation! I love talking about writing with other writers. I also rediscovered Kristen Lamb's blog after several years away thanks to Lori Sizemore, and found it to be super motivating. Back in September when I thought about doing NaNo this year I figured, "Meh, I'm not going to hit 50K with my current schedule, but I'll do as much as I can." Not anymore, baby. Lamb is especially responsible for this with her post about Good Girls and her post about why your writing career might be stuck. This quote from the Good Girls post really did it for me:

How many of us are getting up before dawn or staying up after midnight because our dream might just inconvenience someone else? Let them be inconvenienced for a change!

We ladies bend more than the karma sutra and that is okay, but if our husband actually has to watch the kids for an hour in the evening that is too much?


Because this is me. I fit my writing in wherever I can, and I don't ask my husband for any extra time. And it's not like he'd ever say no. He's totally supportive. But I feel guilty taking time away from him and the kids to go write. After reading these articles, though, I knew I have to do it. Just for November, I'm telling myself. We'll see how it goes. But on days when the older kid comes home at noon from preschool (there are two days a week where he stays in the afternoon, giving me several glorious hours for writing), I will leave once my husband gets home and go to the library for an hour and a half to write.

Yesterday I took three loads of laundry to the laundromat (because the piles of laundry were seriously starting to take over the house, and we don't have a working dryer) and got started on my NaNo book. It's my first foray into YA, a supernatural thriller set in the 1960s. I'm so excited about it. 1750 words so far, folks. Yay!

Are you writing a novel for NaNo this year? What's your schedule like? Do you have trouble giving priority to your writing?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Getting the momentum going... hard! Hard, I tell you! Gah.

"What in the world is she yelling about?" you wonder.

I'm trying to start book three in the Raud Grima trilogy. I've done a bunch of brainstorming and I've written the first 1600 words, but today I had several hours to write and instead I used them to participate on a debate forum I enjoy.

But there were people disparaging trans* folk, man. I had to call them out!

Not that I was alone in doing so... and it is possible that the other posters had it covered...

The real issue is I have this large scale habit when it comes to writing. It's a seasonal thing. I write the most in November-December. Then it tapers off for like six weeks to two months. But then it picks back up in March-May. Then in the summer, when usually the most I do is editing, and my writing dies down again, and it doesn't really get going until the following November.

The pattern has been that way for years--since 2006, I think.

NaNoWriMo is a big factor. I gear up for it and in years where I'm not overwhelmed by other stuff I do the 50K words in November, always with a new WiP. Then I keep going for a while, usually stalling a bit around 75K words. I have a hiatus, and then drive myself crazy thinking, "Come on, Sophia, you're so close to being done!" Which is not entirely true, as most of my novels have anywhere from 15K to 30K more words to go after 75K. But compared to the work that led to the production of 75K words, it's still a lot less.

So anyway, my point is it's September. This is not, historically, a productive month for me. I'm trying to buck the old system but my lazy self is just like, "Noooo.... writing is work and work hurts my brain..."

The next time I will probably have some uninterrupted time for writing is Monday, so really, what needs to happen is for me to not go on that forum at all. No checking for updates, nothing. Just sit down at the computer and write.

Do you have seasons when you are more productive? How do certain habits help or hinder you?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Another shingle!

Yes, folks, I've done it. I've hung up my shingle as an editor and ebook formatter. You can read all about how it works by clicking on either of the appropriate tabs above.

I am just starting to poke around to see where to advertise my services. Maybe if I get a client or two I'll spring for GoogleAds. It's hard to want to pay any money out without bringing even a little in first, though. Plus at the moment we are legitimately broke, as in, hope-we-have-enough-money-to-pay-for-the-baby's-daycare-in-September broke. It's always like that at the end of the summer, because they pay us for July and August at the same time as they pay us for June, and then we have to wait until the end of September for our next checks. Every year we try very hard not to spend too much. Each year we get a little better about it. But we still come up short. What can I say, it's a pretty major factor in the reasoning behind the hanging up of various shingles!
This is not the actual shingle I hung. This is a shingle for W.H. Smith bookstore in Romsey, England.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

That Link I Promised for the Sold Book Cover.

If you were curious about that cover that I sold on, here's a link to an image they posted on Facebook. There are nine covers pictured; mine is the one in the lower right corner, with the white background and silhouettes.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

I sold a cover!

I sold a cover on! Yay! I had posted two covers there, and sort of stopped thinking about them because I had too many other things to do to make new generic covers to submit to the site. And today, I got an email saying the cover sold! I'm not sure whether I can post it here, but as soon as they add it to the published covers page I'll update with a link to it.

Sunday, July 26, 2015


I wrote a review of The Girl on the Train on Goodreads. Then, out of curiosity, I scrolled through some of the other reviews there. I noticed a pattern--good reviews got a few comments, no big deal. Bad reviews got loads comments. Some over a hundred. Even short bad reviews got dozens. One reviewer went back and edited her review to include a disclaimer at the beginning of it to attempt to ward off all the flaming. So I edited my review, deleting everything and replacing it simply with "Not my cup of tea." I just don't need the headache. I've run into my share of belligerent book-fans when I've done things like talk about how Outlander ceased to be a romance for me after the punishment scene (there are book-fans of Outlander who have accused me of having had too easy a life to understand that book correctly--you know... people who have never met me and don't know anything about my life...). So instead, I'm going to post my original review here. Enjoy (and if you disagree with me, please feel free to comment, but if you are so incensed that you want to flame me, please be aware that I will delete your comment because this is my blog and I don't need that kind of static here).

I started off thinking this book was very well-written but too disturbing for me. I felt like I *was* Rachel (despite having far less personal experience with drinking and blackouts), and she lived in my head way too much for comfort. That's a sign of strong writing to me, even if I didn't enjoy it. I was hooked by the story, though, and I felt that her alcoholism worked well with the mystery--it's a strong choice, having her witness something important but be unable to remember it due to her alcoholic blackout.

The ending, however...

[MAJOR spoilers]

...was, to me, a total cop out.

What I respect most in a story is when the answers are there, but the author is masterful enough at showing them to you in such a way that you discount them until the end. Then you find out who did it (or whatever is appropriate to the denouement of a particular story), and you think, "HOLY CRAP. It was right in front of me the whole time." Some perfect examples in movie form: The Usual Suspects. The Sixth Sense. In book form, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

In The Girl on the Train, Hawkins uses a red herring, making you think certain scenes take place between the victim and one guy, when in fact it's another guy. Let's call them the doctor and the neighbor. (I'm trying not to use proper names in case someone is skimming but doesn't want to have their eye catch a spoiler.) Anyway, unless I really wasn't paying attention, she never gives you any clue that the victim is hanging out with the neighbor, not the doctor. She really just sets the reader up to understand (not just to *assume*--but to comprehend the narrative) that the person the victim is with is the doctor. There is also only one instance that I can think of where the personality of the neighbor is called into question at all. So when, in the end, it turns out the neighbor is the perpetrator, it's a surprise, but not the good kind. This is no, "Oh my god, Verbal is Kaiser Soze." Because in The Usual Suspects, it's all right there. If you are paying attention in a way that 90% of people never do, you have everything you need to realize that Verbal is weaving a web of lies. In The Sixth Sense, Haley Joel Osment looks Bruce Willis right in the eyes and tells him he sees dead people. When? ALL THE TIME. It's like he's waving a flag in front of the audience's face, but I know I didn't see it. Then, at the end, I was like, "HOLY SHIT, Y'ALL. It was RIGHT THERE."

Instead, in The Girl on the Train, Hawkins buried the reveal too well. As a reader there is no way you could see the clues ahead of time. Some of the other reviewers stated that they guessed early on who the perp was, because he was the only one who made sense--clearly their minds work differently than mine does. But even so, they chose him by process of elimination, not due to well placed plants by the author. Don't get me wrong, it's no good when you can figure out who did it way before the characters do. But in a well-told mystery, the clues would be there, they'd just be shown to you in a way that made you consider them insignificant. Like in Harry Potter--the cards with the chocolate frogs... tell you everything you need to know about Nicholas Flamel. But I paid no attention to that at all, so at the end I was like, "OMG, Rowling, you are a MASTER."

So I'm left feeling like Hawkins went, "AHA! It was the neighbor all along!" And I'm like, "Huh?" Not a satisfying feeling.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Another New Cover Design

I've been working with an author on his cover design, and gave him a couple of options. This cover, to the left, is one he didn't select, so I've added it to the "Need a Book Cover?" page. I would submit it to SPBC, but they don't allow you to customize the title the way it would be here. They have a set list of fonts to choose from and I wouldn't be allowed to do the drips or anything. So it qualifies for the page on this blog, instead.

You may have noticed that the image of the wall has watermarks--I haven't purchased the stock photos yet, and wouldn't be doing that until someone actually buys the cover. That's another advantage of not putting it on SPBC. They require that you purchase the stock photos in advance.

It would, of course, be possible to alter the cover in different ways--changing the shape of the framing shadow, for instance.

What do you think of this design? Do you like it as it is, or would you change something?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Free books & The Gamble and the Grave!

The Gamble and the Grave (Veronica Barry Book 4) is out on Amazon today! I didn't get a lot of sleep last night (the baby is trying to break me) but seeing that this morning (I'd forgotten--see parenthetical above) gave me a nice boost.

As a result, The River and the Roses (Veronica Barry Book 1), The Fire and the Veil (Veronica Barry Book 2), and The Plane and the Parade (Veronica Barry Book 3) will be free today and tomorrow.

If you have a different e-reader and can't take advantage of free promos on Amazon just email me and I'll be happy to send you your preferred format.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Love/Hate Challenge

My fellow dieselpunk CW Hawes tagged me in the Love/Hate Challenge. It's actually quite rare for me to be tagged for one of these challenges, and this one is fairly straightforward, though it's harder than it looks. So with no further ado, ten things I love and ten things I hate--I'm going to write them as they occur to me, so in no particular order. The hate list was actually a lot harder than the love list, I'm happy to say, so you'll note is a very weird combination of things.

1. Nutella.
2. Corsica.
3. Sleeping in or napping on a rainy day.
4. Reading.
5. Swimming in clear water.
6. People who show kindness.
7. Watching humming birds in our cherry tree.
8. When the baby shrieks with joy or laughs.
9. Cats and kittens.
10. Teaching engaged students.

1. When people react to shooting tragedies by shouting about their gun rights.
2. Unrepentant bigots.
3. War/violence/oppression.
4. Bad drivers.
5. Kernels of corn in cornbread (and many other dishes).
6. Raisins in couscous (and many other dishes).
7. Cockroaches.
8. Spoilers.
9. The "rolling coal" movement and similar idiocies.
10. Being broke.

Now, I pass this torch on to the following ten people:
Kathryn, Aniko, Noel, Lori, Tiyana, Cat, Mary, Mary, Nathan, and Michael.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Gamble and the Grave, Veronica book 4, is available for Pre-Order!

It's coming out on July 19! I will have at least one giveaway of the other three novels in the series before then... stay tuned (as they say) for the announcement(s) here. I'd like to thank Rick and Kathryn for their help, by the way. You two. You're the best.

It has been a challenge, getting any writing done, what with the two pipsqueaks in the mix now. But it's so exciting to have another book coming out. If you want, you can see it here on Amazon, and even go ahead and order it. :)

I have ideas for books 5 and 6 already, and even a vague one for book 7, so with some luck (and the continued support of my husband, family, and friends) the series is going to keep chugging along.

Right now I'm working on the second draft of The City Smolders, the second book in the Raud Grima series. I'm enjoying that. I'd forgotten how much I liked Ginna. I didn't get much done today (though it's next on the list after this blog post), as I've been focused on promoting the Veronica series in anticipation of Gamble coming out.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Book Cover Design FTW!

I've been working on my own covers for a couple of months now. I recently finished the new cover for The City Darkens, pictured to the left. It took a while, but I'm pretty satisfied with it. I need to update the Kindle file associated to it, though, because when you open the file on Amazon for the preview, it still has the old cover in it. No big deal; the old cover wasn't bad, it just didn't quite capture what I wanted. Plus, since the time when the old cover was designed, I've caved as to the content of the blurb that goes with the book. For a long time I wanted to hide the fact that Myadar becomes Raud Grima--I originally intended that to be a very big surprise. But I struggled over that blurb and consulted a lot of people, and they eventually convinced me that I should include that as part of the description. I may revisit it.  

TCD has not been selling much. I haven't tried free promotions for it on Amazon yet. I enrolled it and all the Veronica books save Veronica in Paris in Kindle Select, but I decided to try countdown promotions with TCD and free promos with the Veronica books, to compare results. Well, clearly you shouldn't bother with countdown deals until your books are already selling regularly, because nada with TCD. The free promotions have been very successful with the Veronica books, though. My only complaint there is that I wish that of the 800 or so people who've "bought" the free Veronica books, more than one would post a review (and do it on Amazon, not just Goodreads). I'm not unrealistic. I'd be happy with a 1% return. Eight new reviews. But I'm still waiting.

Anyway, all this to say that I have to wait for the first 90 day period to end in mid July, and then I plan to offer TCD for free five times over the next 90 days, and I hope that'll get it noticed. I also need to go back to editing The City Smoulders and actually publish it.

I'm nervous about designing a cover for TCS, honestly, because while it's the same city, it's very changed. I'm not sure how to go about designing it--ruined by bombs, etc. But the only way to figure it out is to start working on it, so maybe that needs to be my next design project.

Going back to the issue of cover design, I also stumbled across, which sells covers to authors and is fairly easy to submit designs to as an artist. You can see the two I've gotten approved here. I don't know if they'll still be there once they're sold, though. I guess we'll find out.

SelfPubBookCovers rejected this design:

Because of the way the woman sort of blends in to the skyline. I'm going to tweak it a bit and put it on a page here with any other covers I decide not to submit to SPBC, or that they reject but I still think are good. If someone reading is interested in buying one, let me know. I am also more than happy to do a custom design, so if you know someone looking for a cover artist, point them this way.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

New Covers! I'm learning to use GIMP.

Well, after years of being only partly satisfied with most of my book covers, I finally got tired of talking about learning to use a design program like GIMP, and actually started watching youtube videos and teaching myself. In case you don't know, GIMP is a a free downloadable program a bit like Photoshop. The main cover I fret over is for The City Darkens, as I have yet to be really satisfied with any of the covers I've had. But I also had issues with my Veronica Barry covers. This mainly had to do with the titling, which has always been hard to read. Using Paint to make these covers was just short of adequate, in that I got the general look I wanted, but there just wasn't much I could do to really make the fonts stand out the way I wanted them to. So now that I am using GIMP, I've redone them all, and I'm still working on The City Darkens. Here's the original version of The River and the Roses:

And here's the new version:

Here's the old one for The Fire and the Veil:

And the new:

The Plane and the Parade:

And the new:

Veronica in Paris:

And the new:


And here's what I've got so far for The City Darkens:

There's still a lot to be done for it--I don't want the dress to actually look white, for one thing (I was going for light gray, and I'll probably add blue to it) and then I have ideas for other elements in a kind of montage.

The main thing with the Veronica covers, other than making the titles more legible, was to standardize them so they really look like a professionally done series. In honor of my new covers for these, all three novels in the series (Veronica in Paris is a novella and a prequel, and I don't have it enrolled in Kindle Select) will be available for free tomorrow. I'm not planning to offer all three like this again until I launch The Gamble and the Grave (book 4).

What do you think of the covers? Have you worked with GIMP? Have you got any cool tips to share?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Reading or Chocolate?

I've had the flu for the past week, but that hasn't slowed down my recent upswing in reading, since it hasn't had any impact on my nursing schedule. I had a realization, though: if I wean the baby at six months (which was my plan) I won't be able to keep reading so much. This presents a serious dilemma. Because I'm breastfeeding I don't eat chocolate or spicy foods or several other items--which I miss a lot. So I'm going to have to choose: reading or chocolate? What kind of sick choice is that, I ask you?

I've joined Kindle Unlimited. For a while it looked like by the time I got through the thirty day free trial I'd have read all the books available in the program that I had any real interest in, but then I came across the cozy mysteries. So I'm in it for another month, at least. I've been enjoying the Aunt Bessie series a lot and just started one of Charlotte MacLeod's, with Peter Shandy. I had a mystery phase many years ago (about the time I first started writing about Veronica Barry) but my genre phases come and go and it's been quite a while since I enjoyed a mystery. I'm finding that cozies scratch that itch and at least little bit of the Jane Austen itch, too. There's something really comforting about novels that spend some time and description on tea, for some reason.

Reading the Aunt Bessies made me think about Veronica and I'm rereading The Plane and the Parade as a result. A couple of things have occurred to me as I do. 1) I don't give Veronica much down time. Aunt Bessie spends a fair amount of time just enjoying her hobbies, and while Veronica does take her dog to the park and such, she's usually on the phone to someone about the case she's on at the same time. 2) Veronica drinks way too much tea nuked in a mug with a tea bag. I mean, to be honest, it's been a long time since I ordered gourmet tea online and made sure to steep it at just the right temperature in an iron teapot, but after reading Aunt Bessie, each nuked mug in Plane makes me wince.

So I've decided that the next Veronica is going to be a bit slower in pace, so Veronica can enjoy more downtime, and better tea. Because while I realize the Aunt Bessie series isn't exactly famous, I really have enjoyed it, and if I enjoy reading about an eighty year old baking shortbread then there's no reason my readers won't get a similar feeling of comfort if Veronica does it, too. I've had several ideas for Veronica five and six, so that means I'm really going to have to find some time to finish writing Veronica four and get on with publishing it. My editor has been super busy lately, though, so I may have to call on some new beta readers--Rick, I'm looking at you.

I've been enjoying Kindle Unlimited so much I decided to enroll some of my own books in it, which means taking them off sale anywhere but Amazon and doing the KDP Select thing. That's okay because the only book I've sold in the last four months at B&N is Veronica in Paris, and I decided not to take that one down from there as a result. I also left Broken Ones up. But all the other Veronica books and The City Darkens are now available through Kindle Unlimited and that lending program Amazon has. I've also scheduled some free and reduced price promos, so be on the look out for those. The first is this Sunday, April 26: The River and the Roses will be free all day.

Have you tried Kindle Unlimited? Do you use any of those free and bargain Kindle sites?
How do you like your tea?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Having a newborn means lots of reading and not much sleep

Last night I got four hours of sleep, and not all at once. But on the bright side, since my second son's birth I've read something in the neighborhood of fourteen novels--that's since January 18. Considering how little I've been reading until recently, that's quite a change. It all comes from being on maternity leave and having to nurse about every two hours. While I nurse, I read (unless the baby's being especially adorable--then I have to stare at him and stroke his cheek and ears... because they don't stay little like this for long!).

Sometimes I get really nostalgic for when my first son was a baby... it's very different when you only have one child, which I'm sure is not news to any parent of multiple children out there. When I think back to how stressed out I was about having a newborn I wonder what the heck my problem was. When my older son goes to preschool these days I feel like having a baby is cake walk! Nurse him, nap when he naps, change a pooplosion diaper--what's the big deal? And, looking back, I must have got the hang of it eventually, because it was when my first was about four or five months old that I really started blogging a lot, and even started my recipe blog in addition to this one. I was writing, too!

I've had some ideas knocking around for writing, and I've also been thinking I might find a moment here and there (when the three year old is at preschool and the baby is napping, if I've had more than four hours of sleep the night before--it does happen sometimes) to finish writing Veronica 4 and editing The City Smolders. The thing about the ideas for a new story is that the one that seems to be shaping up the most is for a Regency-era romance. If you are at all familiar with my novels you'll know that this is very far afield of what I normally do. Basically, I love Jane Austen's novels and that love extends to a lesser degree to other novels of the period and somewhat after, and I often think I need to write the novels I wish I could find to read. That, and I have a hang up about romance as a genre, and yet I do still love Austen's stories. And I don't understand what my deal is with that. My hang up is that I tend to be pretty cynical about romance in real life, and I also get bored of the heterosexuality of most romances. But, somehow Austen's stories don't push those buttons for me at all. So if I do end up writing a Regency-era romance, it's going to be in part because I'm trying to figure out why those romances don't push my buttons. What is it about Austen's world that I find so compelling? And am I even capable of capturing it?