New Cover for NaNoWriMo project!

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So I took a little time yesterday to work on the cover of my new novel.  I’ve actually had the artwork done for quite some time – but since NaNoWriMo started I’m feeling like I will actually have it done (maybe in time for all of the new Christmas Kindles)!

Inspiration Files for NaNoWriMo

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It’s day 5 of NaNoWriMo and I’m over 10,000 words in to a new Romance series I’ve been rolling around in my head for several years now.  As I write, I am imagining some of my favorite locations along the North Shore of Boston (like the photo above which I took at Halibut Point State Park).

I was going to finish the fourth book in the Relic Hunter Series, but life’s been a bit stressful these past few years and I decided to make this year the year of relaxation writing.  You see, that’s how this whole writing thing started for me.  I began to seriously write in order to deal with conflict I had between wanting adventures and the current state of my life at the time which prevented me from having adventures.  My elderly dog was diabetic and blind – so the summer adventures we’d always shared as a family were put on hold for the dog’s comfort.  I don’t regret those precious moments I spent with my husband and our dog in the air-conditioned comfort of our home; those long summer days with Sandy gave life to the Relic Hunter series.

So this year, I decided to go back to my roots and begin writing in a new genre – not only for the escapism pleasure of my readers – but as therapy for myself.  Through writing, I can revisit some of my favorite places in the world – places where I have been happiest and most at peace – and then give those emotions to my characters.  In a way, I am vicariously living through my characters (and at times re-living), but isn’t that the goal of every writer?

At the end of November I will have finished my novel.  I’m not 100% sure of the title yet, but I know the series will be sub-titled “A Mulligan’s Cove Romance”.  If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, look me up – I could always use a few writing buddies!

Leigh

Coming Soon….

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As I prep for NaNoWriMo, I thought it was time I finished a Relic Hunter Short that I’ve been working on for a while.  I just got the cover done…What do you think???

This Gang is just…AWESOME!

I love it when one of my favorite author sites features me as the author of the day.  If you’re an indie (like me) or a traditionally published author then check out AwesomeGang for promotions and their features.  They’re really an incredible site devoted to promoting all authors (and most of the authors help promote other authors and give such generous advice).  It’s really amazing and here’s their website link Awesome Gang and you can find them on Facebook and Twitter and even on Pinterest!

Sneak Preview – A Wayward Witch

I’m too excited to keep one of Evan Robeson’s cases to myself.  Here’s a sneak peak at his very own story:  A Wayward Witch

The knock on the door was nothing if not authoritative. I grumbled and swore under my breath before reluctantly slamming my work back in the cabinet and trudging to the door. I flung it open without looking out the peep hole, and was startled to find one of Boston’s finest looking wide-eyed and flustered. I made a note to dial back on the irritation I felt at being interrupted.

“Mr. Robeson?” He asked, settling down into something resembling belligerent.

“Yes, officer. How can I help you?” I forced neutrality into my voice.

“We need to investigate a complaint filed by your neighbor, Mr. Durham.”

I didn’t hide the sigh. “What is it now? I’m the high wizard in some cult that tortures small animals?” I put on my best weary expression and ran my hand down my face.

The officer quickly hid a smile. “Um, actually Mr. Robeson, he claims you put something in his water supply.”

I grinned. “Actually, he probably thinks I ‘cursed’ his water, right? What did I put in it…eye of newt, wing of bat?” I shook my head sadly and stood aside, gesturing for the policeman to enter my townhouse. “Come on in, Officer. You might as well call me Evan, I think we’re going to be seeing quite a bit of each other.” I stood aside and the officer entered, glancing around with mild curiosity.

“Nice place.” He commented, and followed me through the rooms to the kitchen at the back of the house.

“Thanks. High Evil Wizard pays pretty well.” I replied, not hiding the grin in my voice or on my face. “You see, Mr. Durham is convinced I’m an evil wizard so everything that goes wrong at his place must be my fault.  In reality, I’m an attorney.” I paused next to my suit jacket which was hung on the back of my sofa and fished out a card. I handed it to him with a shrug. “I’m sorry you got called for this, officer. May I offer you some water or maybe an iced tea?”

The officer declined and glanced at my card. It was a heavy cardstock with my name in raised black letters and a fictitious law firm name. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a real attorney, but my employer is a little paranoid – and justifiably so. I watched as the cop flipped open his small black book and began reading his notes to me.

“Mr. Durham says his water has been running black for the past two days. He suspects you somehow caused it because you’re in a disagreement over a parking spot.”

“I can’t explain his water situation, but yes, he does complain that I usually manage to get a parking space right out front. He thinks it’s magic.” I smiled and spread my hands wide as if I had no explanation for Mr. Durham’s crazy ideas.

“Magic?” The officer tried to hide a grin, but the corners of his mouth twitched just enough to give him away.

“I come home at odd hours, and there’s usually one open space in front of the two houses when I get here. Mr. Durham comes home at 5:15 every night, and there’s no parking anywhere on this block. Probably because everyone else gets home at 5:10, but he thinks I use some sort of magic to clear out a space for myself.” I laughed and leaned against the counter, holding my hands out in surrender.

“Did you have words over it two days ago?”

“Yes. Mr. Durham parked his car down the street, and it was my bad luck to get a spot right out front of my house when he finally got to his own door. He made some snide comment, and I’d had a bit of a long day and told him I made the other car disappear. I suppose I probably shouldn’t have said there was no point in being a wizard if you couldn’t at least get decent parking.” I pulled a contrite look and shrugged. “You see, this has been going on for a few months now, and I’ve tried to explain it rationally, but there’s no reasoning with the man. This time, I changed my tactic and lied to him. I told him I was using magic, thinking he’d realize the absurdity of that, but apparently I overestimated him.” I laughed. “Who would have expected him to take me seriously?”

I forced some calm energy out of myself, giving the officer an apologetic shrug for good measure.

The officer nodded sympathetically and finally closed his notebook gently. He assured me he would alert the city water commission about the problem and speak to Mr. Durham again. I smiled, nodded, and thanked him wearily. I even shook his hand at the door. Really, a wizard with nothing better to do than get good parking spaces and screw with my neighbor’s water?

Maybe that’s what retired wizards do, but I had bigger fish to fry at that moment.

 

Stay tuned for more from Evan – as well as sneak peak of my new novel co-authored with April Chanderon and the debut of my new series! After all, it is NaNoWriMo!

Why is it so hard to maintain momentum?

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I go on publicity binges – posting, tracking, tweeting, creating new content, then posting, tracking, tweeting all over again.  Then I see a jump in sales and I think “Great!  It’s working!” and I work like a woman possessed on my next release or short story in between posts, tweets, tracking, etc..  All of a sudden I hit a day when it just seems like so much self-aggrandizement and frantic activity that I can’t bear to do it for another minute.

It’s in these dark hours of (mental) exhaustion that I just want to crawl onto the couch and read someone else’s work.  The one thing being an indie has taught me is that those moments of blissful peace are necessary to fuel my creativity.  It’s stressful to live with the little voice in my head “Did my scheduled posts work?  Did I put the links on that post?” and all of the other random thoughts that pop in while I’m trying to live my life.

That’s the crux of the matter:  I have a life.  I have a full-time job.  I have a family.  I have a small dog.  I have friends.  I also have a part-time job (writing) that I’m building into a business and that business reqires me to be creative and consistent.

The last time I hit that wall – the one between “I love doing this so much” and “I’m closing my Twitter account” – I decided to approach things differently.  Instead of working like a woman possessed on my next release while promoting, I broke it down into two separate tasks.  Write.  Publicize.  When I’m not feeling particularly inspired, I build my tweets and posts and save them or schedule them to post at specific times.  When I can’t form a sentence, I work on my art for advertising sales & promos – then I save them or schedule them.  Trying to do it all at once just saps my energy and creativity.  If my posts are scheduled, I can focus on my next project.  This has made me more focused as a writer and it’s enabled me to keep my online presence consistent.

When I feel like I’m at the end of my rope, I curl onto the couch (with the small dog) and read someone else’s work.  Those breaks enable me to do recharge enough so I can build my business.  It’s time I carve out for me, without the pressure of constantly feeling like I must do more.  Maintaining momentum is important, but maintaining sanity is even more critical.

Researching Magic

Although I primarily write fantasy, there’s a great deal of research which goes into the creation of my stories.  I suppose I could simply make up the entire thing, but I love legends and mythology so I actually enjoy the research.  That research has given me new ideas and taken my characters to places I couldn’t have imagined!

Along with a pretty extensive collection of legends, I admit I’m addicted to Wikipedia.  While I do look up specific objects on that site, I also click on the sources below the articles.  It is through these external links that I have found on-line library collections of 16th century illuminated manuscripts and a little known compilation of Native American legends.  Being a writer when there’s such a vast wealth of knowledge available is exhilarating.

The creation of magical powers is another part of my stories, and I spent hours developing it for my first book and more time increasing my knowledge since then.  I have read books on magic and herbal healing, mostly those written by modern practitioners of the craft – and while I’m not a witch – as an author, I like to have some basis in reality for my stories.  Many cultures have a strong tradition of herbal and crystal healing and those areas find their way into my work as well.   I have expanded on those resources to develop my own brand of magic.  I like spending a few moments flipping through my dictionaries of healing herbs and crystals to get some inspirtaion for my stories.  Sometimes, I write my characters into impossible situations that I have no solution for – a few flips through one of my resources sometimes turns up the perfect answer or at least gives me a grain of knowledge that I can expand into a viable solution.

All of the research gets filed into my brain, or scribbled onto index cards, or typed into documents that lurk on my computer. That process makes writing as much about learning as about creating a story.  I think that’s the thing that keeps my reader interested – there’s really something to learn hidden in my stories.  I know the research and learning is what keeps me interested as a writer – there’s so much out there that I feel like I’ll never run out of fuel for my stories.

If you need me, I’ll be at the bar…

My next book release is delayed because I’m spending too much time at the bar.

I admit it:  Instead of working diligently on my next book, I’m spending my evenings and weekends at the bar.  It’s a really cool place where something is always happening.  The waitress is always friendly and has a big smile on her face (even though she sometimes makes weird facial expressions).  She has a secret – and I happen to know what it is – and then there’s the owner of the bar…he’s interesting in a whole other way, kinda the strong, silent type but a real stand-up guy (even though he has lousy taste in women).  The bar is a place where I’m happy; a place I can go to forget the everyday worries and just lose myself in the atmosphere and drama.  I get so involved there that I spend the hours when I can’t be there thinking about how much I just want to go back to the bar and become oblivious to the annoying details of everyday life.

The bar I hang out at these days is Merlotte’s and my favorite waitress, Sookie, always helps me take my mind off my own troubles.  Sam (the owner) makes me feel like somehow, everything’s going to turn out okay – even though the road might be a little rocky.  Merlotte’s is home because I know everyone and even when I want to smack Sookie for putting up with Eric’s nonsense, I trust her judgment and keep my mouth closed (she knows I’m thinking it, anyway).

At least four years ago, I read the first eight or nine books in Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series.  I read them all – one right after another – during the summer.  I clearly remember lying on my couch with the air-conditioning blasting and being totally engrossed in the stories.  I didn’t like Bill Compton, I really adored Gran, and I felt so bad for Jason that I ripped into the next book just to make sure he’d be okay.

Then I had to wait for the next book and…well, I kinda got distracted hanging out with my new friends, Rachel Morgan and her sidekick Jenks.  Then I lost touch with them when I met Jane Yellowrock because she was there for me when I beside myself with worry over someone I love very much.  Jane came to the hospital with me every day and she took my mind off of things I had no control over.  Jane told me about her whole life – one book after the other – while I waited for things to get better and she was my respite and escape when things were too scary in the real world.

Jane went on vacation for a while (the next book hadn’t been released yet) so Sookie and I renewed our friendship and I’ve been spending all my free time with her and ignoring my other friends – Arienne, Caly, and my new friend Hope.  As bad as I feel for ignoring them, Sook has things going on and I need to know how it will all turn out.

That’s the thing about books:  once you’re hooked, you’re in for the long haul.  I might put off reading the final book in the Sookie Stackhouse series just because I know I don’t want it to end (really, it ended a while ago, but I was busy with Arienne so I’m a bit behind the times).

My point is this:  my writing has grown out of my deep love for the escape books have always provided me.  Just like people, the characters sometimes disappoint me, but in the hands of a skilled author, that disappointment turns into something I can relate to.  For instance, I really want Sookie to tell Eric off – but she’s being a little passive-aggressive about the whole situation right now.  I want to smack her until I think about it and realize (with some shame) that I have approached similar situations in exactly the same fashion.

That’s the great thing about a good story.  The lines between reality and fiction blur.  I know Arienne and Hope miss me, but for now, I really need to get back to the bar.  Not only do I have friends there, but they’re people who can teach me something – and maybe Arienne and Hope can benefit from those lessons.

Writing as therapy

Sometimes (like today), I get up at the crack of dawn because I’m simply too stressed out to sleep.  Life’s like that – long periods of status quo where it seems as if everything is flowing along like a peaceful river and then you’re suddenly going through the rapids in an innertube, clinging to irrational hope that the roaring you hear in the distance isn’t a giant waterfall.

Those moments of “Oh, crap – here we go!” are what fuel my writing.  For those of you who’ve read my books, you know that my characters find themselves charging forward despite those little voices in their heads that say “I’d rather be taking a nap on the couch” or even “this wasn’t such a good idea.”  That’s what life is all about.  There are days when you can nap, and days when you just need to deal with the insurmountable tasks you feel ill equiped to handle.  You can’t crumble and you can’t hide from those challenges – the only thing you can do is move through them, trying to trust the fact that your talents and skills will serve you well.

For me, my ability to make a mental escape into another place has been a skill which has kept me from twisting into a giant stress ball and rolling into a nice, dark closet to wait out the catastrophe.  Sure, I can’t sleep a lot of nights, but I can get up and lose myself in Arienne’s next adventure, or I can relish Cleo’s self-serving “me first” attitude, or I can help Caly figure out what the clues mean.  Those breaks from the reality give me time to decompress and solving a complicated plot twist is so satisfying that it gives me hope I can solve the gnarled tangled that my own life sometimes becomes.

Writing is my escape.  I can point to situations in my books and think “Oh, right – that’s when x happened” and I can remember the particular emotion or issue that was playing in the back of my mind when I first sat down to write a specific chapter.  Those exact situations aren’t in my book, but I can think of times when (like Arienne) I was facing a giant obstacle and felt too overwhelmed to work out the solution until that little voice in my head spoke up (like Gonishen did) and said “Just think.  You know the answer to this.”

That’s what a book should do.  Take you out of your current situation and bring you somewhere where you can solve messy problems and feel like no matter how bad things get, there’s a solution and everthing you’ve learned up until that point has been to prepare you to find that solution and keep moving forward.  I think of my readers when I write – I want to take you on a journey to an interesting place with people who feel just as overwhelmed and inadequate as the rest of the world does but after an adventure, I want to bring you safely home feeling like just maybe, a happy ending is always possible.