A Lucky 7 Sneak Peek

Over the past few weeks, I was tagged by a few blogging/writer friends with the Lucky 7 Meme.  I got quite a few tags, and I couldn’t decide which work to give you a sneak peek of, so I’ve decided to do two posts!  Which means today you get an excerpt from my newly released novel, Dry Spell, and you should come back next week for a super sneak peek at my current project: the third book in my Elemental Magic series.  Sounds good, yes?

First, the basic rules of this meme:

1. Go to page 77 of your current MS/WIP
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs, and post them as they’re written.
4. Tag 7 authors
5. Let them know

I was tagged by T.F. Walsh, Tiffany A. White, and Alina Sayre.  Go check out their excerpts from a variety of genres!  And next week I’ll post the links to the excerpts from others who tagged me.

Dry Spell

Excerpt

“She does talk to sea creatures.”  Colin quirked a smile at me.

Paige glanced at Keenan.  “So you’re one too?”

“We’re telling you this because we intend to stop Drake from trying to hurt you again, and we want you to understand that this is something we’re equipped to do.”

Paige bobbed her head along with Keenan’s explanation.

“Paige, this has to be kept secret,” Colin said, and fixed her with a serious stare.

Paige snorted.  “I know that, Colin.  I wouldn’t tell Sean’s secret; of course I won’t tell Aileen’s either.”  She looked at me again and smiled.  “That was cool, just now, by the way.”  Then she laughed and gave Colin a playful punch on the arm.  “Do we know how to pick ‘em or what?”

Dry Spell is available on Amazon.

Want to play this game?  I think, instead of tagging specific people, that anyone who wants to should be able to post an excerpt.  Enjoy!

Where’s the Fire?

As a native of California, I’m quite familiar with disaster preparedness.  If the “Big One” hits, and half our apartment caves in and we’re sleeping under the stars for a while, we’ve got it covered.  Those of you in other areas with your own unique natural disasters probably also have an idea of what you would do in the case of those emergencies.

Here’s the thing…having a vague concept isn’t enough.  You know what to do in theory, but when you’re in the moment, it’s amazing how all rational thought can go out the window.

Two weeks ago, I was sitting at home, working on my novel, when I saw smoke start spewing from the house across from my apartment.  I didn’t have a clear view with the tall fence between us, but it pinged my internal warning system.  Still, I didn’t see any flames; surely there were lots of reasons for there to be random smoke, right?  Well, I’ve seen enough TV shows to know that a lot of people don’t call 911, whether because they’re in a haze of denial/disbelief, or they assume someone else already did.  I didn’t want to be that kind of person, so I called.  Turns out, I wasn’t the first; the operator knew the address already and that it was a fire.

So I stood there in my bedroom, watching out my window while I waited for the sound of sirens.  Then the flames broke loose.  One minute it’s just smoke, the next the entire roof is engulfed in huge flames.  I could feel the heat through the glass.  And, I’m ashamed to say, I just stood there, watching.  Perhaps it was shock.  Perhaps it was due to a firm belief that the fire department would arrive and save the day.  But the winds were already going 30+mph and I still couldn’t hear any sirens.  Finally, it’s like, maybe I should get the hell out of there.

We’ve probably all thought about what we would grab in the case of an emergency, but I’m going to tell you that it won’t mean anything unless you make a list and tack it to your refrigerator or somewhere else you’ll be able to see it.  I scrambled about for a couple pairs of clothes (though somehow missed the shirts), medical supplies, and of course, the cat.  Now, we already have her carrier plus a go-bag with leash, body harness, and blanket ready for an earthquake, but it was just as well for this situation.  Thankfully, I got her in before the police started banging on the door ordering an evacuation, because that’s when she freaked.

Though I had the presence of mind to grab some important things, I missed some other crucial stuff.

* Credit cards  (I don’t happen to carry these on me, and you can’t get a hotel without one.)

* Phone charger  (If your house is gone, that phone is your only connection to the world to get things done.)

* All your medication  (I remembered to grab my diabetic supplies, but forgot other important pills.)

I know it sounds like a lot to grab, but in my case, I had time.  I just didn’t use it.  Trust me, it’s less of a hassle to unpack everything for a false alarm than it is to be without important items and barred from your place.

All in all, my apartment was safe and we were allowed back several hours later.  The house in the back was destroyed.  I am so thankful because it could have been so much worse.  I’m making a list for next time.  Will you?

Do you have a go-bag for your pets?  For yourself?  Do you know what you’d grab, and is it within easy reach?

On a side note, ever since that day, my stress level has been steadily increasing.  Some of you may have noticed I haven’t been as present lately, on other blogs or my own.  With working full time and getting my next book released, I’m starting to feel like a puddle of mush.  I’m thinking of taking a vacation, unplugging and focusing on recharging myself before my head explodes.  That would be messy, and I’m sure cleaning it up would cause me more stress.  😉

It’s a Tag Party!

Stacy Green tagged me a couple weeks ago with this fun, get-to-know-you meme.  And I’m finally getting around to answering them!

Rules:
1. You must post the rules.
2. Answer the questions and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged.
3. Tag eleven people and link to them.
4. Let them know you’ve tagged them.

Questions:

If you could live in a fictional world, where would that be?
Narnia–Talking animals, unicorns, griffins, mermaids, and magic swords.  Plus Aslan.  🙂
Do you read in noisy or quiet places?
Both.  I’ll often read at home when it’s quiet, or out in between jobs when it’s noisy.  I also read during commercials while watching TV.
What was the first book you ever read?
Hm, what was it called…McGregor, McGruff, something anthology.  Book 1 was like simple level, and each book went up in difficulty.  It’s what my dad taught me to read with.
If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?
The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer.  I read it a couple times every year.
Favorite author?
I can’t pick just one!  Patricia Briggs, Kelley Armstrong, Cassandra Clare, Melissa Marr…the list goes on.
Do reviews influence your choice of reads?
It depends on what the reviews say.  If they’re well thought-out with specific explanations for positive/negative, and I know that I like that type of thing, or don’t like that type of thing, then I may or may not read the book.
Fiction or Non fiction?
Fiction
Have you ever met your favorite author?
No, but I got close one time.  I went to a panel/book event and got to see some authors I like.  Well, sort of see.  Most of them were rather short and the stage wasn’t very high, lol.
Audio books or Paperbacks?
Paperback
Classic or Modern Novels?
Modern
Book Groups or Solitary Reading?
Solitary

Tag, You’re It!  And I’m going to follow the lead of Stacy and just say the same questions.  😉

1. Alina Sayre

2. Katy Hulme

3. Jessica O’Neal

4. Tameri Etherton

5. Angela Peart

6. Bridgette Booth

7. Rebecca Enzor

8. Jen Kirchner

9. Tiffany White

10. Debra Kristi

11. Sharon Howard

Author Spotlight: Alica McKenna Johnson

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Alica McKenna Johnson to the blog.  She just released her first YA fantasy.  Congrats!  Here’s a little about the book.

Sara’s dream is to find her family but she doesn’t count on discovering magical creatures or catching on fire. On her fourteenth birthday a surprise inheritance changes her appearance, abilities, and identity. Welcomed into the family of the Phoenix she is taught to use her new powers. Will Sara embrace being a Child of Fire or will the evil that killed her parents destroy her as well?

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I personally love the phoenix myth.  What made you choose it as the focus for your book?

Phoenixes have a lot of different gifts and there are myths about them all over the world, which made them more dynamic to work with. They also had myths about shifting into humans, which made it easier for them to mate with humans. 🙂

Will this be a series?

Yes, my editor is making me plot it out right now, which as a pantser is a challenge. So far to get all the elements I want I’ll need to write eight or nine books.

Wow!  You’ve got a lot ahead of you.  If your book was turned into a movie, who would play your top characters?

Wow- such a fun question. Wait a second I must confer with hubby. Okay because my main characters are so young- Sara is fourteen at the start of the book, I’d love to have some new actors. One thing I would insist on is they are the correct race, it makes me mad when they cast actors of different ethnic backgrounds for roles.  But for some of my older characters let’s see. I would adore it if Nathan Fillion or Huge Laurie played Philip, Karl Yun for Shin, Kareena Kapoor for Anali, and for Gavin, James Marsden.

But to be honest, I’m much more interested in watching or hand picking who will be preforming all the circus stunts. 🙂

Lol, sounds like you’ll need your own Cirque Du Soleil.  Which authors have influenced you the most?  Not necessarily in writing style, but in any form of inspiration.

There are so many amazing authors out there with great stories of trials, struggles, and success. But in all honesty a wonderful group of fan fiction authors was a huge influence. Not only did all the differences in their stories teach me so much about writing but the support I got from that community as a newbie author was amazing.

As an author, what’s your biggest fear?

Of course I am scared of the first negative review and I know I’ll get one, I won’t be able to make everyone happy. But my real fear is being slammed for grammar and spelling mistakes. I suck at grammar and spelling, it is my greatest weakness as an author and why I am so grateful to Kilian Metcalf for all of her time and patience in helping me edit my book.

I think a lot of people assume that being a good storyteller means automatic grammar skills.  Gotta love our editors!  What aspect of writing are you currently working on improving in your own craft?

My pacing and balancing my description whore tendencies.

Haha, I’m working on adding more description!  You went the self-publishing route—want to tell us a little about your decision?

Mainly I’m a control freak, and didn’t want someone messing with my book to meet ‘current industry standards’, especially since even after trimming my book is 98,000 words. Also because of how much work even traditionally published authors have to do on their own to promote themselves I decided to try and do it on my own.

I can definitely relate.  What activities do you enjoy when you’re not writing?

I love watching movies, especially foreign films. I go for hikes with my family. Hit the gym with a friend several times a week. And of course reading.

Your book is YA Fantasy—is there another genre you’d like to write in the future?

To give myself a break between book 2 and 3, and honestly because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for book 3, I’m working on a contemporary paranormal romance. I’m calling it Poltergeist meets Ghost Adventures.

I also have story ideas for other contemporary and gay romance stories all with paranormal/ metaphysical themes.

Ooh, sounds fun!  I love the cover—who designed it?

Thank you, I’m thrilled with it. My hubby designed and painted it for me. After years of listening to me talk about my story and characters he had a clear idea of what he wanted it to look like and it’s perfect.

That is so neat!  Will he be designing subsequent covers? 

Yes, he’s working on a back cover for the print version, and he has ideas for book 2- eventually I guess I’ll have to think of a title.

(I’m stealing this last question from my interview with Alica.  :-P)  What mad-ass survival skill do you have?

Does marrying someone with mad-ass survival skills count? And my son has done survival training so I know how to surround myself with bad ass-ness LOL! Um let’s see, I have more helping-rebuild-society skills. I can knit and know how to help a woman give birth- if there aren’t major problems.

Lol, yeah, that counts.  Thanks for hanging out over here today!

Angela thank you so much for having me- these have been great questions and super fun to try and figure out!

***

You can find Alica on her Blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

Her book can be found at Smashwords and Amazon.

Got a question for Alica?  Do you love phoenix stories?  I love hearing from you!

Cover Reveal ~ Dry Spell

I am really excited for the second Elemental Magic novel to come out some time in the next couple months.  I can’t give an exact date because I’ve learned I really can’t predict the future or control unforeseen events (though I’m shooting for early April, fingers crossed).  But take a look at the awesome cover, done by BookGraphics.

Aileen Donovan is an elemental with magical control over water.  When Aileen finds a mummified body at a scientist’s convention in Seattle, she suspects supernatural foul play.  Her amateur sleuthing, however, isn’t the romantic getaway her human boyfriend, Colin, had in mind.  Breaking into crime scenes and fending off black magic doesn’t really set the mood.

As more bodies turn up, Aileen’s insatiable desire to solve the mystery not only pits her against a serial killer, but also a cunning vampire lord, and an elemental agent with ulterior motives.

But the closer Aileen gets to the killer, the further she finds herself from Colin.  Can she try to salvage their relationship and stop a murderer, or is she out of her supernatural league?

You can add the book to your TBR list on Goodreads.

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And here’s a Mash-Up of Awesomeness for your reading pleasure:

Kickass Heroines: Danielle from Ever After, by Tameri Etherton–We like our women strong and feisty!

Rhinestones and Diamonds, by Alina Sayre–It’s not easy living with integrity in a rhinestone world.  (Exceptional post)

Diana Murdock Feels the Cyber Friends Love, by Diana Murdock via/ Elena Aitken’s blog–Cyber friendships don’t have to be superficial.

The Final Word on Fear, by Kate Wood–Have courage in the face of fear.

Amazon: Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts, by Kristen Lamb–A very thought-provoking look at the future of publishing.

Squeezing Time

Last week’s sermon was a very powerful talk entitled “What if we all had the time?”  This is a big issue for people today, whether you’re a Christian or not.  How do I make more time?  How do I get the most out of my time?

Two principles stood out to me from this sermon because they look at this issue of time in a slightly different way than most people are trained to.

*THINK RHYTHM, NOT JUST BALANCE

“I need to find a balance.  Once I do that, everything will fall into place.”  Yeah, I’ve said it too.  If I can just balance everything I’m juggling, I’ll get everything done.  But if you stop to think about what that looks like, you’ll end up with this.

And you know what happens when you drop the ball in one thing?  The entire structure comes crashing down.  Think about it this way.  You find a way to balance all your responsibilities, all the things you want to do, but that balance is actually carrying the weight of those things all the time.  Your strength is going to give out eventually.

This is where rhythm comes in.  Rhythm means allowing time to set things down.  Alternate the weight.  My bulletin’s fill-in-the-blanks say “Divert Daily,” “Retreat Weekly,” and “Abandon Yearly.”  Take time daily to rest or play.  They say if you work with your hands, to rest with your mind, and if you work with your mind, to rest with your hands.  I work with my mind all day, whether it’s writing or interpreting, so my play should involve something kinesthetic, maybe like doing a jigsaw puzzle or some exercise, like dance.

Now even though the Sabbath is a tradition set in place by God, Christians today have a hard time following it.  No work at all for one day?  Crazy.  Impossible.  Well it doesn’t have to be a whole day; it doesn’t even have to be a Saturday.  But our emotional and mental health depends on us taking time to rest.  Stay in bed for two hours on the weekend, reading.  Take a media fast one day a week.  (Most of you probably cringed at that one.)

*THINK ENERGY MANAGEMENT, NOT JUST TIME MANAGEMENT

Hello, big one right here.  I always think in terms of time management.  If I manage my time, I can fit everything in.  But at the end of the day, I’m exhausted.  Did I accomplish my to-do list?  Maybe.  But now I don’t have any energy left for other important things like family and relationships.

Know what fills your tank, and what depletes you.  Got a ton of tasks that wipe you out?  Spread them out over days.  Have a task that fills you up and energizes you?  Do it every day.

If we think in terms of rhythm and energy management, maybe we’ll not only have more success in utilizing our time, but feel better, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

You can listen to or download the full sermon here.

Do you feel like your life is a balancing act?  But does that balance weigh you down and leave you feeling wiped?  Do you take time to recharge regularly, or do you wait for the support beams to crack before you unplug and refresh?  I love hearing from you!

Escaping into the Extraordinary ~ Guest Post by Tameri Etherton

It is my pleasure to welcome Tameri Etherton on my blog today.  We met last summer in Kristen Lamb’s blogging workshop and became fast friends.  We may live hours apart, but I have no doubt that if I were in trouble, she’d jump in her car and break the speed limit to get here.  She is fun, quirky, and one of the sweetest people I have the honor of knowing.  Please give her a warm round of applause!

*

I am so excited to be guest blogging here today and would like to give Angela a huge thank you for having me!  She’s guest blogging on my site on Friday, so be sure you hop over there to see what she has to say about writing fantasy. It will capture your heart as it did mine.

 ~~~

Every writer has a reason why they write ~ some because the voices in their head tell them to, others because they want to be rich and famous. For me, it’s neither the fame nor the psychosis that compels me to put words to paper; it’s a need to tell a story that takes the reader out of the mundane and propels them into the extraordinary.

I can recall the first fantasy book I read where I thought, ‘I want to live in this world, I want to know these people’. It was David Eddings’ Pawn of Prophecy. After reading every book in the series (more than once), it dawned on me that I could write a book like that. A book where the characters become friends and the story is so engrossing readers forget about reality for a little while.

That was twenty something years ago and somewhere along my path I pushed aside my wish to write a book. A husband and children kept me far too busy and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I remembered I once had a dream. By then, the fantasy genre had changed quite a bit. David Eddings’ sweet tale of an orphan boy seemed rather prosaic compared to the epic novels of Robert Jordan and George R. R. Martin. Their 800 page doorstopper books were filled with betrayal, murder, and sex. Gasp! We’re talking more than a chaste kiss on the lips, too. Then along comes Brent Weeks and his assassin series and the fantasy genre blew up.

It’s an exciting time to be a writer. Many of the stigmas and formulaic tropes have been cast off. It’s not unusual to find a badass heroine rescuing the dude in distress. Princesses are freeing themselves from the tower and slaying the dragon on their own. Better yet, they are befriending the dragon and living happily ever after with their prince charming on a nice plot of land somewhere.

I recently reread Pawn of Prophecy and was immediately drawn into Garion’s world as if  I’d never left. And really, isn’t that why we all read books? To escape? I know that’s why I write them. Everybody needs time away from reality every so often.

~~~

For some extra fun, check out the interview Tameri and I did on her blog Monday.  It was a blast!

Free Smiles with Validation

Has anyone seen this short film, “Validation,” starring T.J. Thyne (Bones) on the magic of free parking?  I have to warn you, it’s 16 minutes, but if you don’t have time to watch it now, come back later to take a look.  It’s a cute film.

It truly is magic when you think about it, how the smallest compliment can brighten the rest of a person’s day.  It takes ten seconds to give, but the effects last for hours.  I remember one time I had just come from lunch with someone who made me feel really down about myself.  A young guy stopped me in the parking lot–granted, he was asking for money–but even after I declined with an apology, he said, “Do me a favor, stay beautiful.”

You can laugh at the cheesiness, heck, I did.  But in that moment, man how I needed to hear that.  I was smiling all the way back to my car and the drive home.

It’s easy to get hung up on one perspective of validation.  We seek it in certain areas: work, writing, family, relationships.  And when we don’t get it, we start to feel down, and that feeling bleeds into other areas of our lives.  We begin to doubt everything about ourselves.  We come to rely on validation for our self-worth.

I often think of validation as confirmation that I have it all together, or I’m perfect.  Well, that’s an illusion right there, and certainly not what validation means.  So many facets make up my person.  And when I get validation in one small part, it catches fire like a trail of gunpowder, igniting and inspiring the rest of me.

This does bring up one issue, which some of you might share–I don’t always do well at accepting compliments.   I’m not saying I don’t love them!  Seriously, hearing someone say they loved my book sends me over the moon!  I just try to hide it.  Call it embarrassment, or dislike of attention, or humility.

 

Check out this post by Jenny Hansen on Marcia Richards’s blog: Is it really better to give than to receive?  Maybe we need to start opening ourselves up more to receiving.  Words, acts of service, gifts–all of these are ways to communicate love and validation.  I bet you’re all great at giving it.  Now it’s your turn to receive some.  🙂

So I leave you with these: You are awesome.  You work so hard and have accomplished so much.  People may not tell you very often, but you are a solid rock in their lives, without which the wheels would come off the train.  You are beautiful.

Confessions of a Versatile Blogger

Earlier this month, I was awarded the Versatile Blogger Award by two fabulous ladies, Marcy Kennedy and Sharon Howard.  Thank you!  Be sure to check out the awesomeness of their blogs.

Before I take the pleasure of passing this award along, I must list seven random things about myself.  Let’s see if I can come up with any new material.  😉

1. I kill flowers.  Not intentionally!  But so far not a single blooming plant has survived living with me.  Even now, the orchid, a plant that’s supposed to survive anywhere, is losing its flowers one by one, shriveling into dried corpses.  I am very distraught over it.

2. Whenever I learn something new, it usually works its way into the novel I’m writing at the time.  When I wrote Elemental Magic, I’d just taken a Tai Chi class–Tai Chi became my main character’s method of relaxation.  When I wrote Dry Spell, I had just ventured into the land of social media, and then one of my characters became a professional blogger with her own Twitter hashtag.

3. The very first CD I ever owned was Spice Girls.  It would have been quite the scandal in my house if my dad found out, so my mom, sister, and I only played it when he wasn’t at home.

4. I love lists.  I make to-do lists for everything–daily to-do lists, monthly to-do lists, lists for things to watch out for in editing.  I buy those page-a-day calendars so I can use them as notes.  Current count on my desk: 9 lists.  (7 of them are actually writing related.)

5. Every year I buy a fantasy art calendar like Nene Thomas or Josephine Wall, then at the end of the year I cut it up and put the pictures on my wall like posters.

6. I can recite every line from all three of the LoTR extended movies, in order.  I would love to be able to watch them for the very first time again.

7.  In college, I learned how to write in Tengwar, Tolkien’s elvish runes.  My friend and I used to write letters to each other in them.  Now, it just comes in handy for hiding passwords.

Now I get to pass this award along!  Congrats my fellow bloggers!  Remember, when you post about receiving this award, list seven random things about yourself, and then pass the award along.  And don’t forget to let those winners know.

1. Alina Sayre~Illuminations–She blogs on writing, cooking, books, and how faith brings them all together.

2. Jessica O’Neal–She’s already received this award, but her blog is newly discovered on my end, so there you go.  😉

3. Rebecca Enzor–She’s gotten this award in the past, but I just have to highlight her Custom of the Week posts.  If you love My Little Pony, these Sunday features are a must!

4. Jennifer Kirchner–In addition to her Vote Your Own Adventure series, she’s added some more nerdy pursuits to her blogging topics, such as gaming.  You absolutely must read her post on Kirk vs. Picard.

Thanks for playing!

Write Like an Onion

No, I do not mean your writing should smell bad.  Rather, writing a book is like growing an onion–it happens layer by layer.  One doesn’t typically bust out a perfect best-seller in the first draft.  (And if you do, well then kudos, but most of us aren’t gods.)

Writers are told the most important thing in writing is to just get something on paper (or Word, since most of us are computer trained by now).  A messed up paragraph is easier to fix than a blank page.  I, for one, enjoy watching my novel transform from superficial first draft to detailed final product.  There are so many aspects that make up a good book–plot, description, characterization, emotional investment, grammar.  (It’s amazing how much that last one comes up in book reviews.)

I don’t know about most of you, but I’m guessing that like me, you can’t keep all those aspects at the forefront of your brain at the same time.  Maybe you’ve got one down really well, but it takes a few rounds to nail another.  That’s okay because it’s all part of the process of writing/growing a novel.

Everyone’s process is different too.  My first drafts are all about plot and pacing.  That comes easiest to me.  Then I have to go back and work on adding subtle characterization to make my characters really pop.  Grammar is not an issue, but there are some technical aspects that I need to focus on one at a time, like passive voice (“was”) clusters.  In the revision process, I go over each chapter again and again, each time with a different focus, adding another layer.

When it’s over, I’m exhausted.  But seeing how my novel changed and grew makes all that work worthwhile.

What’s your growing process like?  Do you know which layers you tend to apply first?  Last?  Do you struggle with this concept, pushing yourself to write down the first words perfectly? 

Take a look at this video of flowers.  Notice how the first petals push out, and then later how more petals emerge and fill in the center.  Like a fully bloomed flower, a great novel is full of rich complexities–and they didn’t come together all at once!

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Phoenix Feather is on SALE now on Amazon for $.99!  A sweet romance with a slight supernatural flair.