20 September 2016

Hold Please

If you haven’t noticed, it’s been far too long since I’ve posted here. A fact I’ve been studiously ignoring.

I had grand plans. I had visions of glory and amazing content. I had, as usual, packed too much into my own schedule.

You see, I have a new website under construction.

It’s almost finished, but not quite. I’ve been putting everything off until it’s ready to go, but due to the complications that life is so adept at throwing at us, the whole project is behind.

So, for now, I’ll say this:



Book three of my Jagged Scars Series is out.


Shattered Dreams hit Amazon last month.

I’m a big fan of this one. It’s the midpoint of the story, so everything changes. Evolves. Including Wendy’s emotional state, her relationship with Jeff, her friendships with others and a betrayal that is almost as painful as Pelton’s.  I had the help of an interrogator for part of it. It’s amazing. If you haven’t read book one, Fractured Memories, start there.

Book four, Crippled Hope, should be out in early November. It’s with my beta readers right now, and they always have amazing feedback, giving you, the readers, an even better story than the one I had originally imagined.


Stay tuned, the website should be up in the next few weeks!

06 June 2016

Nasty Review or Critique? Take a Breath.

Twice a week my sisters and I go to my parent's house. My mom has dementia, and my dad is still taking care of her, so we go over to make sure my mom gets a good shower and my dad gets adult conversation.

If you've ever been alone with a couple of little kids for days at a time, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Well, a few weeks ago, my twelve year old nephew came with his mom. He had my book, Fractured Memories, in his hand and a very serious look on his face.

I said, “What's up?”

He looked at me gravely and said, “Jo, I think I found a mistake in your book.”

Now I'm thinking typo or something like that, so I shrugged and said, “Probably, it's hard to get a perfect copy edit.”

He shook his head. “No, I mean a...” He trailed off. Then he asked me if I'd ever studied math...drat I can't think of what exactly he asked. It sounded like math theory or something. Anyway, I was like, “Uh, no.” In my mind I was like, “Where does he come up with this stuff??”

So he sits up straight, wiggles his little butt, opens my book—which he has two post it notes in—and starts to read this paragraph:

The man on the right stepped in, so she went for him first. Before she got there, someone caught her shoulder from behind. She and Pelton had run through this scenario a thousand times. She ducked, swiveled around behind the man, wrapped her arms around his neck and had both of her knives at his throat before he could do anything.

My nephew was confused. I can see why. Action scenes are hard to describe in general, and it’s often better to be vague and let the audience fill in the gaps. After I understood his question, which was about how one second there was someone behind her and the next there wasn’t, I said, “Stand up, we’ll play it out.”
 
So there we were, my oldest sister, my youngest nephew and I all acting out a fight scene.

It’s a bit difficult to direct people when they don’t have any fighting experience, but after a few tries, I lunged for my sister, and had my nephew grab my shoulder from behind. Then I turned, went around him, got behind him and crossed my wrists in front of his neck.

Poor kid was like, “Oh.”

I may have also impressed my sister.

We laughed and he showed me something else he didn’t like in the book. I smiled and noted his comments.

I’ve taken all sorts of criticism about my books, and it’s always tricky. Honestly, when my nephew started talking math talk I was instantly irritated. Like a twelve year old knows more than I do about math, and what did it have to do with my book? He was just trying to look smart in front of everyone.

But I took a breath and shoved those thoughts aside and asked him to explain. He’s not a strong reader yet, and what I took out of the conversation was that he’s probably not quite ready for my writing style. Good to know when parents ask me about it.

Either that or I could restructure my action scenes. Which I’ll also be looking at.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that a critique, no matter where it comes from, can have some merit. But don’t listen to haters. They’re just annoying.


09 May 2016

Meet the Snarky Jenniffer Wardell and Her Latest Release, Dreamless

Today we have the awesome Jenniffer Wardell and her latest baby, er, release, Dreamless.
Jennifer is a woman after my own, overly sarcastic taste. Her writing is both clever and fun. Dreamless is an imaginative retelling of Sleeping Beauty, only Elena's not asleep yet, and she's not about to go under without a fight. Cam is her fun, handsome bodyguard turned admirer, and he's ready to help in any way he can. Punching stuff is his specialty.

I put Jenniffer through my random interview questions. This is what she came up with:

If your enemies banished you to Hell, what breakfast food would you be forced to eat every morning?
Black pudding, AKA blood sausage. I tried it recently on a trip to Ireland, before I realized what was in it, and it takes like the ghost of long-departed sausage, now haunting the husk of a burned-out barn in the dead of night.


Valentine's Day, romance or horror?
Action, actually. I always want my sprays of blood to come with epic sword swings, punches and explosions.

If you had a Darth Vader head stress ball, would you actually squish it?
So much. And I would yell at Anakin as I did it for screwing up three generations of people with his issues.

Could Cam from Dreamless beat Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in a fight?
If it was just a "look at how tough" we are fight, I'm not sure – Mr. Darcy is terrifying, but he's forgotten how to fight for fun. Cam is less intense, but he's been practicing with his siblings for years.
If it was a fight to the death, Cam would win because he'd cheat. And if that didn't look like it was going to work, Elena would use magic to cheat for him.

Let's say you have to rewrite Dreamless as a horror, give us a 3-5 sentence summary. Feel free to be gory.
The darkness has stalked Elena all her life, the curse of a vengeful aunt who sees her entire existence as a betrayal. Now that the clock is ticking down, she can feel the cold black claws of her fate inch closer. Will she finally succeed in defeating it, or will the darkness consume her completely?

What is your favorite moment of Dreamless? That you can talk about.
I don’t know if I can pick an absolute favorite moment, but one I really loved is when we see Elena sneak out of the castle to go flying. Up until that point she’s seemed very reserved and controlled in everything she does, but the flying scene is a chance for her to let her more playful side come out where she doesn’t think anyone else can see her. I liked Elena before that, but it was while I was writing that scene for the first time that she really endeared herself to me.

What character would you want to spend the day with? What would you do?
I’d love to have Elena teach me magic, or Cam teach me swordfighting, but I’d also love to spend even a half-hour with Braith (the undead wraith who’s like an uncle to Elena). I’d get to see a wraith, which is cool, and I’d also get the magical discussion and see what kind of gossip an undead magic user who’s been alive for centuries has up his sleeve.

Gloat. Why your book? What makes it awesome?
One, I don’t think there are enough fairy tales out there that manage to be funny without turning into parodies, so I feel like “Dreamless” and my other books fill in a nice little gap on people’s bookshelves. Two, this is a version of “Sleeping Beauty” that really gives the power back to the titular princess. In a lot of versions someone else has to rescue her, but in “Dreamless” it ends up being Elena’s job to rescue herself. She has people who love her and want to help, but in the end the real decision is in her hands.

See! She's awesome. And her books are fantastic. Go read them, you'll laugh.

If you'd like to follow Jenniffer, start at her blog
You can find all the avenues of stalking her there.


18 April 2016

"Who Shall Conceive the Horrors of my Secret Toil?" How every book is a Frankenstein

The process of writing a book is eerily similar to creating Dr. Frankenstein's monster:



"Who shall conceive the horrors of my secret toil, as I dabbled among the unhallowed damps of the grave, or tortured the living animal to animate the lifeless clay?"

"The dissecting room and the slaughterhouse furnished many of my materials; and often did my human nature turn with loathing from my occupation..."

What? You don't think creating a story is that intense? Allow me to elaborate.

"Who shall conceive the horrors of my secret toil...?"

When I started Fractured Memories (Book 1) I needed something gruesome for the Skinnies to do to themselves. To prove to the audience that they were both disgusting and insane. Somewhere between the Reavers from Firefly and a zombie. Tattoos were too boring and full-on maiming was too close to both the Reavers and the Yuuzan Vong from the now abandoned Star Wars cannon. I wanted something a little different.

So, I did what I always do, and initiated a series of Google searches that led me to a technique called Scarification. Go ahead, type that into Google and then go to the images. Toss Africa in there too.

Pretty interesting. Watch some of the videos, if you have a strong stomach.

Then I saw one of a guy with a forked tongue.

Seriously?

Uh, yes, the process is, while probably painful, quite simple. And if you put some effort into it, you can apparently control each side separately. Google it. I dare you.

"...as I dabbled among the unhallowed damps of the grave..."

Each of my stories starts one place and ends up in another. I'm getting better at outlining, but it's still a long, grueling process for me to write a book. Not to mention five of them in the same series. As I revise, I dig through the old drafts looking for the bits and pieces that can be plucked from their graves, dusted off, polished off and used again.

"...or tortured the living animal to animate the lifeless clay?"

I have tortured many a living animal to animate the lifeless clay of my story. We'll start with my husband, who gets to put up with my pity parties when things aren't going well in the writing world, as well as any political or science questions I may have about my story.

If I'm feeling exceptionally hopeless, I drag the poor guy to Sweet Tomato where we eat and talk until I'm satisfied that I've figured out how to fix a plot problem. He usually has loads of suggestions, which I then shoot down before getting to the answer that will work.

Then there are my beta readers. Some of them read three or four drafts of New Sight, the first novel I published. They continue to beta read for the Jagged Scars Series and provide invaluable feedback.

"The dissecting room and the slaughterhouse furnished many of my materials..."

If I come to a pivotal moment in a story, and I'm not sure what to do with the plot or the characters, I'll start a list of at least twenty possibilities. They don't have to be good, or even reasonable—sometimes I literally write "Ninja Monkey Attack"—but I have to jot down twenty. Somewhere in that process, I find the idea that will either solve my problem or lead me to the solution.

What's slaughterhouse about that? I always feel as if I am bringing ideas to life only to kill them on the spot. Kind of eerie, if you think about it.

"...and often did my human nature turn with loathing from my occupation."

The other day, a beta reader came back with a complaint that my character didn't have a growth arc during a critical part of the story. She was right—I hate it when she's right—and so I started thinking about how to resolve it. Another beta reader gave me a suggestion, I twisted it and came up with what I thought would be brilliant.

And it is brilliant!

But it might never see the light of day, because the brutality of the scene is both graphic and spine tingling. The character certainly snaps out of her old ways and decides to take a new path, but I'm not sure it's appropriate for YA readers. But it's so dang good!

In the end, this is the description of Frankenstein's Monster:

“His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion, and straight black lips.”

Hopefully the finished product of my book is much less horrifying than that!

My new release, SeveredTies (Jagged Scars Book 2), went through the transformation from bone and sinew from man and beast into a story of a young woman with near crippling PTSD who has to help save a whole complex of people from the same fate her family suffered. She's tough, but not invincible, and when she falters, her friends are there to keep her from diving off the cliff of her mind into oblivion.


Please check it out.

Fractured Memories(Jagged Scars Book 1) is on sale for 0.99 over at Amazon.
Goodreads is hosting a giveaway for Fractured Memories for a couple more days (See the widget at the top of the blog)

Stay tuned for a giveaway for Severed Ties.

11 April 2016

A Little Something to Whet Your Appetite

With a week until Severed Ties comes out, I thought I would taunt you with the beginning of one of my favorite scenes.
This is a moment of levity in Wendy's world.
Well, if you can call getting shot at levity.



Wendy followed Jeff along the edge of the shield.

“What if there are people in here?” Jeff asked.

“Then we’re going to get shot,” Wendy said.

“I’ve always admired your honesty.”

“Gee, thanks.”

They each grabbed a few dirt clods, and every five feet threw them at the shield. All of them disintegrated on contact.

The sun began to dip toward the mountain peaks behind them. Ten steps, toss dirt, more steps, more dirt. Jeff followed behind her, testing the sections she missed. They watched for natural barriers, but found nothing more distinctive than trees.

“I wonder how far up it goes,” Jeff asked, craning his neck.

Wendy took another set of steps and stopped. “Farther than we can jump, I bet.”

“Too bad the transport broke down,” Jeff said.

“You think that was an accident?” Wendy asked.

“Not really, but I thought I was the only one that was that paranoid.”

“Better than being dead.”

“You’re morbid today.”

“But I’m alive.”

Jeff laughed. “Fine, you have me there.”

The radio crackled to life. “We might have found the entrance,” Riggs said. “Northeast corner of the complex.”

Wendy and Jeff shared a flat stare. They were on the southwest corner.

“On our way,” Wendy answered through the radio.

“I’d race you, but your legs are way too short to keep up,” Jeff said.

Wendy shot him a scowl. “You sound like Kev.”

“Maybe Kev is smarter than he looks.”

“Let me punch you first. Just one shot. Give me a head start.”

“Do I look like an idiot?”

“Do I have to answer that?”

Wendy’s lips spread into a grin as she and Jeff started to jog back around the complex. She liked it when she could let go of the pain inside. Even if only for a few minutes. And Jeff had a knack for helping her do just that.

Even moving fast, Jeff’s ears and eyes were alert. He swerved, grabbed Wendy and tossed them both to the ground before Wendy registered the rustle in the bushes by the shield. He rolled, putting himself between her and the danger. Wendy pulled her gun out and got ready.

A soft whine preceded a bright flash, which left a two-foot wide smoldering patch of the forest floor where they had been standing a moment before.

“Move!” Wendy said.

04 April 2016

Severed Ties Cover Reveal

Severed Ties
Jagged Scars Series
Book 2


Wendy is no stranger to death—she killed her first Skinny before she was ten—but the slaughter of her family is personal. Pelton's betrayal to the Den planted a wicked seed in Wendy's heart that is slowly growing into a ravenous monster bent on revenge. Its rage is bleeding into her dreams, her nightmares and her waking hours, staining everything, including her sanity.


When the monster almost overpowers her, Wendy decides she should leave Shelter. But before her friends will let her go, a plague sweeps through the complex. Doc doesn't have the meds they need to cure it, but the map Wendy wrestled from Pelton could lead them to a place that does. Now Wendy must hold her mind together long enough to keep everyone she knows from dying. Again.


Teaser:

Mike leaned forward and put his elbows on his knees. "I'm here to make a deal with you. You play a penitent, remorseful young lady who has been through a lot in the past four months for the Council and take what punishment they give you, then you can stay."
"Why should I trust you? Dennis told me that you'd asked him to toss me in that cupboard."
"Did he?"
Wendy leveled her gaze at Mike. "Did you?"
A few seconds went by as the older man's eyes narrowed. "No. Although I had my doubts about you. But I don't send children to do my dirty work."
"I have no reason to trust you. You have no reason to trust me. Let me go and I'm out of your hair. This deal doesn't sound like much of a win for me."
Mike held up a finger. "Help us translate the map. Once you do that, I'll put you on the teams that are going after the Primate."
Wendy had her mouth open to retort, but shut it. "What?"
"I plan to go after this guy. He's destroyed at least four other settlements besides the Den. He's killed everyone in his path. He needs to be stopped, and I'm going to be the one to do it. If you do as I say, I'll make sure you're on the first team that goes in."

21 March 2016

The Power of Secret Socks

I have this friend. We're the kind of friends who've known one another for forever, but don't hang out much and yet we still feel obligated to get gifts for each other for Christmas. A few years ago, this friend bought me a set of DC super hero socks.

I opened them up and fell in love immediately.

I mean really, look at them. Who can resist wearing a tiny Robin uniform on their feet all day? Or Wonder Woman?

This friend of mine has started an obsession that may never be satisfied. Well, at least not as long as they keep making awesome socks of geeky things that I like so much.

I'm sure you're dying to find out why this is. What compels me to continue to buy fun socks?

Well, here's the thing. Picture the first day of your work week. You drag your sorry corpse out of bed and to the shower only because your muscles remember how to do it without you having to think. You didn't get to laundry, so the options of what to wear are limited to the same thing you wore Friday, or those stupid pants that pinch in all the wrong areas and the blouse that your not so favorite sister bought you for your birthday three years ago that still has the tag on it.

You look around for shoes, and the thought of wearing heels makes you want to weep and then die, not to mention fall over. You spy your boots and figure they'll work. Close enough. Not like anyone is going to notice. Everyone is going to be grumbling about the meetings anyway, so---bah, you had forgotten about the meeting.

Time for drastic action. You need to be sharp. You need to be awesome. You need some empowering and you need it quick.

What do you do?

Pull out the sock drawer and dive for the Wonder Woman socks. Slip those on and you'll feel like a new woman. Each time someone or something tries to bring you down, think of your socks, and smile that knowing smile that always shoots paranoia through your co-worker's hearts.

You've got this. No problem.

There are plenty of possibilities.

Need a ridiculous amount of self confidence? Slip on Naruto.


Behind on a big project? The Flash is your guy.

Going to need magic to get out of the jam you're in? Griffindor to the rescue.

Sure you'll need to go back in time at least once in the day? The Doctor is at your service.


Thinking you might have to rip someone's arm out of their sockets? Chewie is always willing to help.

You see, no need for despair. Just slip on your secret socks and go forth!

How do you cope?