Monday, June 13, 2016

Upcoming reading in NYC: Rough&Ready Chapter One (novel openings) @RoughnReadyRep

I'll be there, reading from a middle-grade fantasy novel. (The "rough" means works-in-progress.) These Rough & Ready events are always great fun!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Cover reveal now! FRANNI AND THE DUKE middle grade historical novel from @SunburyPress

In May of 1608, the Duke of Mantua will throw the most spectacular wedding extravaganza in history. But it will all be ruined unless twelve-year-old Franni can keep a very big secret.

Franni and the Duke, coming soon from Sunbury Press, takes place during rehearsals for Arianna, an opera by the great composer Claudio Monteverdi. When Franni and her older sister Alli run away to Mantua, they both find work in Monteverdi's company. 

A messenger from the north announces that the next duke of the town of Bergamo is missing, and he may well be in Mantua. Alli notices that Luca, a singer she's in love with, fits the missing Duke's description. 

Although Franni thinks Luca is a pompous idiot, she promises for Alli's sake to keep Luca's secret safe and protect him from bounty hunters and Bergamo's rival family. She does this with the help of the company's set designer, a worldly wise and world-weary dwarf named Edgardo, who is not exactly what he seems. 

Here's a look at the beautiful cover of Franni and the Duke:

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Thursday, May 12, 2016

J.L. Gribble's Adventures in Outlining Her Novel STEEL VICTORY

In March I had the pleasure of being a guest author at Cleveland ConCoction. On the last day of the con, as I sat in the book room, I started a conversation with my neighbor. J.L. Gribble was selling her novel Steel Victory, the first in her Steel Empires series for Dog Star Books. She kindly agreed to stop by Jester Harley's Manuscript Page to tell us her outlining secrets. Listen up!

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Adventures in Outlining
By J.L. Gribble

Though I didn’t write my debut novel, Steel Victory, with the intention of turning it into a series, I jumped at the chance to do so at the invitation of my publisher. Unfortunately, that means actually writing the series! After a brief moment of panic, I got into the swing of things and committed to publishing a novel a year for what is now known as the Steel Empire series. While Steel Victory was published in summer of 2015, and its sequel, Steel Magic, is set to be released this upcoming July, I’ve also already completed a full draft of book 3 and a full scene-by-scene outline of book 4.

Writing a book is pretty much, well, writing a book, but one part of the process I’ve managed to do completely differently every single time is the outline stage. Two terms often used for writers are those who are “plotters” (who have the entire story down before they begin the first draft) and “pantsers” (who make everything up as they go along). Time to do some compare and contrast!

Book 1
Steel Victory was written during the course of a two-year graduate program. I knew what sort of book I wanted to write—urban fantasy, alternate history, nontraditional vampires, strong family bonds—but the actual plot was a different matter. I knew where I was going a few scenes in advance, but once I wrote those few scenes, it was back to square one until I came up with what happened next. This is pretty much the definition of pantsing.

It is very easy to switch directions using this method because you’re not locked into anything if genius strikes while you’re out for a walk or driving somewhere. Or in my case, in the shower.

I had a ton of clean-up work to do on the book afterward. Some scenes needed to be restructured and I ended up cutting over 10k words from the final version because a few more scenes were ultimately useless because I hadn’t quite nailed down where I was going at that point.

Book 2
Because I was on more of a time crunch to draft and revise my second novel (one year versus two), I knew that I needed to find a better method. For Steel Magic, I started with a full road map (the plotter method). Before I wrote one word of the novel, I had almost 5k words of a detailed outline. I knew what was going to happen in every scene, down to the locations and minor characters involved.

There was never a break in the action. This was especially helpful during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), when I wrote a full 50k words of the novel in 30 days. I never had to sit back and wonder what was going to happen next.

Sometimes I did come up with a few tweaks or a better way to handle the story, and when that happened, I had to go back to my outline and make sure I wasn’t going to write myself into a corner or cause any major plot holes down the line.

Book 3
With another book to write in a single year, I knew I had to stay with the full plotting method. This book I switched it up once again, because I had set myself the goal of a traditional Romeo & Juliet plot (with bonus feminism) set in my world, with my characters. So my scene-by-scene outline was a direct scene-by-scene retelling of Shakespeare’s play. As a former English major, this was both a challenge and a blast.

Because I was basing my story on such a classic tale, I had a blast figuring out my twist on it. It’s not that most of the work was done for me, especially considering my version has a few more epic battles between weredragons and vampires, but having a solid jumping off point certainly made things a bit easier.

Outlining book 4 using the Three Act Structure template.
The narrative structure of a stage play written hundreds of years ago is a tad different from a popular fiction novel of today. I have many more major revisions still in progress for this book based on some critiques from beta readers, in which some scenes need more conflict and at least one needs to be cut completely.

Book 4
At a writing retreat a few months ago, I learned about another outline method called the Three Act Structure used in conjunction with lots of note cards. (For more information on Three Act Structure, click here.) I decided to use this one for my latest book, which involved figuring out all of the major themes and plot points and then filling them out into individual scenes. For me, this involved lots of colorful post-it notes and poster board in for office for my cats to knock over.

The template provides a great list of things that should be included in a novel, like character goals and the dark moment before the act. This was a helpful guide for really digging into the meat of the story I was trying to tell.

I ended up with a lot of major events and nothing in between. Figuring out the smaller conflicts while maintaining a good pace was more difficult than I expected it to be.

What I Learned
This is probably where you expect me to tell you what the best method is, right? Absolutely not. One of my favorite things about the art of writing is that there is no one, true way. Through trial and error, I’ve learned which way works the best for me. The book 2 method: organically outlining in chronological order, by the way. Since I’m not planning anymore rewrites of long-dead playwrights, I think I’ll stick with this for the rest of the series. And to be honest, when I read other novels, I can almost never tell what sort of method the author started out with anyway!

The last few years have been an adventure, but now that I’ve found what works for me, I can’t wait to jump into future projects. After I actually write book 4, of course.

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Learn more about J.L. Gribble on her website, Facebook, and on Twitter/Instagram @hannaedits.

Purchase Steel Victory on Amazon.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Launch Day Joy: MOSAICS Vol 2 Indie Women Authors #IAmAMosaic

It's time! Volume 2 of the Mosaics anthology series is out. Stories and poems by and about strong women.

One of the editors, Kim Wells, made this gorgeous promo card for my story, "No One's Land."

And here's a video featuring everybody's story cards:

Oh, and you're welcome to stop by the Facebook party tonight (May 1) from 5:00pm to 7:00pm Central time.

But most important, please pop over to Amazon and buy this wonderful book.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Planet of the Eggs #Comicbook Series Publishes a New Issue!

Coolness alert! My guests today are the writer and illustrator team who create Planet of the Eggs, a dinosaur-themed comic book series. Peggy Bechko and Charlene Sorensen stopped by to discuss their process.

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Welcome to Eggland!
by Peggy Bechko and Charlene Sorensen

Peggy Bechko, frequently published author (genres including Romance, SciFi and Western) and optioned screenwriter teamed up with long time friend and former health insurance industry denizen, Charlene Sorensen to bring the world a new world...Eggland.

Friends for many years, Peggy was ready to embark on a whole new venture - comics!

And Charlene was ready to stretch her creative wings.

Together they created the new Planet Of The Eggs Comic Book series. The first in this 'eggciting' adventure across time, space and who-knows-what, Cracked Open, introduced the Six Eggs of Legend and was followed by the second Grimoire: Book of spells, the third, Mummified Egg and the fourth Eruption (the first of a two part adventure).  There are many adventures yet left to tell.

The writing/illustrating team, living in the foothills of the high mountains just five minutes apart, is geared up, creating the second in the two part adventure Eruption and Saving Dot. and have reached a point where one can read the other's mind. Even artistic disagreements are arrived at simultaneously. They spend two to three days a week together, creating jointly and time apart creating illustrations, working on their newsletter and pondering what might come next for the well-armed eggs.

For Peggy, an author who’d always created alone previously, what happens when things change? When the career takes yet another turn (most careers have many of those turns) and life hands this writer a new direction and simultaneously a writing partner?

With a great writing partner, things pop and sizzle as never before. We end each other’s sentences and marvel at one another’s ideas. Effortless. Satisfying. Fun! It gives us chills!

And I guess one would call what we do, creating more than simply writing. We created our own project, a new comic series called Planet Of The Eggs. We learned new software, created story lines, wrote scripts, designed characters from scratch and pulled the whole thing together in an ‘indy’ published comic es, not to mention creating designs for our CafĂ© Press Planet Of The Eggs Shop. It was a learning curve the size of Mt. Everest, but it was a great climb. We work side-by-side two days a week and separately the rest of the time sending ideas, created comic characters and other bits and pieces back and forth via email. We’ve learned much about getting our work out there for people to enjoy. It’s a wonder we actually sleep. Actually it’s not clear that Charlene does.

Peggy and Charlene envision a long life for the Six Eggs of Legend as they move between the worlds, superpowers evolving, and fight the forces of evil to save Eggland. And a long and happy partnership in the creation.

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Learn more about Peggy, Charlene, and Planet of the Eggs on the official website or subscribe to their newsletter.

Purchase Planet of the Eggs: CRACKED OPEN on Amazon
Purchase Planet of the Eggs: ERUPTION on Amazon.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Book Tour #Giveaway: Terri Bruce's New Novel, WHEREAFTER

I know Terri Bruce as a fellow member of Broad Universe, a society that supports women authors of speculative fiction. As a comrade in literary arms, I was delighted to host Terri's blog tour for her new novel, Whereafter.

And be sure to scroll down to the giveaway!

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Making Believable Ghosts
by Terri Bruce

I’m so thrilled to be here today, celebrating the release of my third novel, Whereafter (Afterlife #3). This is the third book in my Afterlife series, which tells the story of a woman named Irene Dunphy who dies and must learn to navigate the afterlife as a ghost.

I love mythology and the origins of myths, and one day while driving to work, I started thinking about afterlife mythology. I wondered why there were so many different and disparate descriptions of the afterlife if they were all describing the same thing. I mean, realistically, if there is an afterlife, we’re probably all going to the same place. So why is it described so differently by different cultures? I started thinking maybe it was like “The Blind Men and the Elephant”—that is, that all the stories were only describing a part of it. So I tried to imagine what the afterlife would like if all the afterlife stories were true. How would all these very different and sometimes competing places exist together? When I read one myth that said the dead travel to the afterlife via a tunnel of light but another that said it was via a bridge, I tried to imagine a way in which that was possible. Well… maybe different people saw different things—maybe it’s all based on perception. Maybe they weren’t all crossing at the same place. After all, having lived on the North Shore of Massachusetts for many years, I can tell you that sometimes I traveled to work in Boston via a bridge (the Tobin Bridge) and sometimes by tunnel (the Sumner and Callahan Tunnels). It depended on which road/route I was traveling. It was also dependent on my mode of transportation—when I drove, I took the bridge and when I took the bus/public transportation, we went through the tunnel. So maybe that’s how it is for the dead.

When it came to reconciling the many different descriptions of the physical landscape—especially the more strange/outlandish elements—I realized that this could be explained as being different places within the same world and also through the idea of higher planes of consciousness. This is where I borrowed heavily from the Buddhist state of Bardo—an intermediate stage between the physical realm and enlightenment where the person wrestles with demons and visions that are a manifestation of the person’s subconscious. As the person learns and becomes wiser/more enlightened, he/she is able to see through the outward appearance of the demons to their true meaning. If we thought of the afterlife as a place where people gain enlightenment, then things might appear confusing or unexplainable at first. But as the person gains more knowledge and insight—and ascends to a higher and higher planes of being—then they can see more clearly. So, for instance, in the second book of the series, Irene meets a cat that seems to be leading her through the afterlife. To her, it looks like a cat, even though she’s pretty sure it’s not an ordinary cat. Because she isn’t enlightened enough/ascended to a high enough level, she can’t see its true form.

While I was trying to find a way to make all of the various descriptions of the physical landscape work together, I also wanted to write a world that was believable. I didn’t want it to be fantastical fantasy; I wanted the mechanics—the physical rules of it—to be realistic, or, at least, plausible. So I set out to also create realistic explanations for various beliefs and folklore elements. If there really is an afterlife, why do people travel to it through a tunnel of light? Why is it far away and not right here? And why a tunnel of light? What is the function of the light in helping move spirits from the physical realm to the afterlife? Or how about, why do some ghosts see a tunnel, some seem to instantly be transported to the other side, and some get stuck here and can’t cross over? What is the mechanics of that and why it happens?

Another example: how is it that ghosts can walk through walls and yet also move objects? To walk through walls they’d have to have no mass and/or be pure energy. But if they move objects, they have to have mass, right? So how can they both? At times, I began to feel like a physicist trying to describe quantum mechanics (and honestly, after reading all the various mythology, I’m starting to think it could all be plausible at a quantum level!).

I’ve tried very hard to make sure that my world building is realistic and consistent—this has often led to problems that were hard to solve. If ghosts have mass (because they can move things) then how come we can’t see them? But how come we can see them sometimes and other times they are invisible? It’s been really difficult at times being consistent in the world building when the stories are so inconsistent! But once I started thinking of the afterlife as different planes/levels all stacked together and started thinking in terms of different scales – the way that sub-atomic particles and planets exist in the same space—then things began to make more sense… or, at least, be more easily explained

Part of why I’ve loved writing this series is the world-building challenge. Because I created these self-imposed rules (use ALL of the stories and myths and make it all plausible) that I had to adhere to, it really forced me to stretch and grow as a writer. It turns out, coming up with realistic explanations for fantastical things requires MORE creativity than just coming up with the fantastical things themselves. I always thought all of the imagination and fun was in imagining new things, but then getting those things to adhere to a set of rules requires a lot of ingenuity as well. And it’s helped me to develop discipline as well. I could have given up on making the world-building adhere to a strict set of rules (it certainly would have been easier) but I don’t think the books would have been as good. Many readers of the series like how the books feel like they could be real/how the world-building is believable. So, developing that discipline has been a good thing for both me and my readers.

For anyone that loves afterlife mythology or wants to learn more about the Afterlife series, during the month of April I will be participating in the “A to Z Blogging Challenge,” and every day, I will be posting a video blog (at in which I reveal all of the hidden references to afterlife mythology and “Easter Eggs” in the series. I encourage everyone to stop by each day and check out the videos! You can also sign up for my newsletter to stay up to date with all my latest news. In addition, I love interacting with readers, so please feel free to email me or connect with me on Twitter!

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Excerpt from Whereafter:

Andras grunted, the sound filled with suspicion. Irene bent down to tie her shoelace, as much to avoid eye contact as anything. When she straightened up, something in the distance caught her eye, shimmering like a mirage. She squinted, not sure she was really seeing what she thought she saw.
“You know, now might be a good time for you to tell me what it was like to live in a castle,” she said.
Andras shook his head, sadly, as if Irene had disappointed him. “You cling too much to the past. Forget the trappings of life. Free your mind from these longings, and so, free your soul. Only then will we be able to escape these shackles and enter Heaven to rest at the side of God.”
Why did he always have to argue about everything? “For God’s sake,” she said, exasperated, “just answer the question!”
Irene pointed to the hulking structure in the distance. “Because,” she said as Andras whirled around to see what she was pointing at, “correct me if I’m wrong, but that looks like a castle.”
“Wow!” Irene said, her eyes roving over the dark, crenellated structure hulking in the far distance. It gleamed dully, the color of burnt blood in a fading afternoon sun. “What the hell do you think that is?”
Andras grunted. “As you said—Hell.”
Irene frowned at him, but her lips quirked in amusement. “Why do you have to be so negative? It could just as easily be Heaven. God is supposed to live in a palace, right—the whole ‘my father’s house has many rooms’ thing? A castle is just a type of palace.”
Andras gave her a dry look. “Does that look like Heaven?”
Irene was on the verge of agreeing that the castle did not in any way look how she imagined Heaven when it shimmered, as if the fading sunlight had been redirected by mirrors. Light rippled across the castle’s surface and the dull, dark, burnt-blood color transformed into gleaming, bright, silver-white. Crisp white pennants flapped from the corners as if whipped by wind. Irene thought she could hear them snapping crisply.
Irene looked at Andras, and he looked at her. His expression made it clear that he had seen the same transformation she had. It was as if the building was trying to trick them into coming closer.

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Learn more about Terri Bruce on her website and Goodreads.
Purchase Whereafter at Amazon and other retailers.