Update on Focus

It’s been a busy month for me, which only partially explains my lengthy absence from Facebook and my blog. I moved again, and hopefully for the last time until I win the lottery or my Prince Charming sweeps me off to Far, Far Away. ๐Ÿ™‚ I had a short family vacation to bid farewell (sprinkle ashes) to my maternal grandfather, who passed last August, and aside from it being a bittersweet occasion, it was a wonderful time to catch up with everyone I haven’t seen in oh, about seven years… And finally, I left one of my two part-time jobs, just as my summer job at the golf course is starting up again. But that’s okay. The one was way too stressful for a part-time job, and I feel heaps better since leaving it behind. I also love the golf course gig, because how else would I get to golf at one of Canada’s top one hundred courses. ๐Ÿ˜‰

All in all though, it adds up to me not being able to focus much on writing. Or even editing. I’ve been slogging through an old “Ice” story lately, polishing and sprucing it up but as you know, I loathe the editorial process. I do it because it’s necessary and I’m interested in making sure my work is worthy of being read, but doesn’t mean I have to like it.

I’ve also been working on two or three other new stories. One is the fifth in the TAITS adventure series, another is a new hockey-romance, and the last is in the fantasy genre, and while they’ve all been coming out fast and furious, I’ve painted myself into a corner, so to speak, in every single one. It’s not the first time it’s happened but I am extra frustrated because I can’t choose one over another to get through these road blocks. All three main novels I’m working on have me stumped. I’m more than a little afraid it’ll mean going back and scrapping a large portion of each and I’m stubborn enough to not want to do it. See my previous note on loathing editing…

On another topic, but still related, I’ve been playing with the idea of putting my books through the Kindle Createspace process, which would mean interested readers would be able to purchase my books in print. It does involve quite a bit more prep on my part, and I don’t have enough know-how on designing covers just yet. As well, it would mean selling all my work exclusively through Amazon Kindle. I don’t mind so much, but I do sell a fair amount through the other outlets (eg. Kobo, iBook store, Nook Books, etc.) so I’m worried about losing those readers. I don’t want to limit my exposure, since I have so little as it is, but I have had more than a few people express interest in buying my books in print. Any thoughts you want to share, I’m open to your opinions. ๐Ÿ™‚ I may or may not like it, but I’m always happy to have the feedback.

So where does all this leave me? Unfocused on writing, but focused enough to write this post. ๐Ÿ™‚ย Which isn’t all bad. I’ve decided to give you a sneak peek of the fantasy story I’m working on โ€“ check it out over on my ‘Sneak Peeks’ page. Maybe putting it out there in the world will spur something, and get me going again. Maybe not. Maybe I need to take a break from writing, and catch up on my gargantuan to-be-read pile of books and ebooks, because frankly, it’s giving me anxiety seeing them all piled up there (physically on my shelf, and figuratively on my ebook device). I know I can’t get through them all in an instant, but I do want to read them all, and one piece of advice I’ve had from other writers, and that I sometimes give, is to read, read, read.

And there you have it. I can’t focus because my characters are being stubborn and the plot bunnies are off enjoying the summer that finally arrived, and because… life happens.

As always, take care and happy reading.

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Follow The Rules

I’ve been thinking a lot about the rules lately. Not laws. ๐Ÿ˜‰ The rules when it comes to what I write. You might be thinking, what rules? There are no rules, beyond basic grammar, spelling and punctuation. Except there are.

In the genres I write, contemporary and suspenseful romance, the rules are pretty basic. They’re the same as the real world. I don’t deal in magic, portals to other dimensions, space travel, or supernatural creatures. People don’t fly, murder is wrong, and no man or woman is perfect. Sounds simple enough, right? I used to think so, but lately, I’ve been thinking that I’ve got a set of rules that I write within.

Let me explain a bit more.

In a fantasy novel, for example, the rules are different. There might be magic, wizards, flying people, and werewolves, etc, right? But they follow rules, or canon, set out by the author. They might be: magic is good, but can be used by bad people. People can fly, but it requires a certain spell, or they’re not able to fly beyond our own atmosphere. Werewolves exist, but only at the full moon, or maybe they can shapeshift on their own schedule. It all depends on the novel, or the world that the author has created. Once they’ve established that world, the rules are set. If a werewolf can only change at the full moon, then that is the rule. If people can fly without a magic spell, then they don’t need to cast a spell before jumping off the Eiffel Tower. They can’t break the rules. They can’t, in the penultimate chapter, suddenly have a werewolf change at the new moon. It would be against the rules. Do you understand?

When it comes to my own work, you still wouldn’t think the rules are all that restrictive. And they’re really not, but I do have them. I didn’t start out telling myself that I have to follow them, or that I can never change them. Each of my hockey-romance books are stand-alone and could each presumably come with a new set of rules if I wanted.

The TAITS series of adventure/mystery, they on the other hand, do have to follow the rules I’ve created. The technology they use is advanced, but it’s not omnipotent. They take care of foreign threats in far-off places, but they can still diffuse situations they come across at home. The characters are faster, smarter, and more resourceful than the average person, which means they can move faster, or handle more firepower than most people. There are a few other minor details that you probably never gave a second thought to while reading them, or that I even considered while writing them. All together, it makes up a sort of playbook that I have to reference whenever I write something new.

I’m not sure when it occurred to me that I’ve been writing everything I do within a set of rules. I suppose it’s been on my mind in the last couple months since I’ve posted the last two stories on Lit, “Cold as Ice” and “Reflections on Ice.” I enjoyed writing both of those, for different reasons, and to me, they ended on satisfactory notes. The majority of feedback I received was positive, but there were several people who commented that I’d ended the stories without a marriage, or even a hint of a proposal. This isn’t the first time I’ve had that sort of response, and I suppose it’s because I rarely end my stories with marriage or a proposal. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but in my mind, I cannot suddenly have my characters go from the first tentative confessions of love to all-out marriage and commitment at the end of my stories.

I write contemporary romance, which, to me, means they’re modern interpretations of love and romance, within the societal norms I’m used to in the Western world. Meaning, people don’t meet and get married after dating for a month or two. They don’t even get engaged. Not typically, anyway. I’m sure everyone out there has some story of love-at-first-sight or meant-to-be about real, live people they know, but whatever the case may be, that is not typical. That is a very small percentage of people who experience those things, and in my opinion, having those situations in my stories would not make sense.

There have been three stories in my catalogue of work where the characters have come together in marriage or engagement by the end. In those stories, that step in their relationship made sense. They’d been together for some time, and they’d spoken of marriage or a life together. It wasn’t just a grand finale chapter or epilogue I tacked on the end to bring some kind of final conclusion to the story.

In my other works, the characters have only known each other for a very short amount of time. (Kaitlyn and Alex dated for about two months, Mina and Drew, the same, Dylan and Cassia dated a grand total of two and a half weeks before the end) To me, it would be disingenuous to have them end in marriage mere weeks after they got together in the beginning. It may not have started out as a rule in my head, but it has come to be something I do follow, in my efforts to keep my stories as “real” as possible. Yes, yes, I know. I write fiction, and really, my hockey-romance stories could arguably be classified as pure fantasy, but I still try to have realistic characters, dealing with realistic issues in a realistic world, our world.

Maybe I don’t like the stereotypical happily ever after scenario because I don’t want to see my stories ending at all. Maybe I like to keep them open-ended for future sequels. ๐Ÿ™‚ I know I like revisiting characters in later stories, weaving friendships throughout and updating on characters from old stories โ€“ in a more realistic timeline.

I’m not suggesting my rules are the same for all romance, contemporary or otherwise. They’re just what I find myself working with, or having had worked with all along. Any set of stories, romance, fantasy, or otherwise, does fall within a set of rules. You may not know it, may never be able to pick them out after having read them, but they’re there. I know occasionally I read something and find myself detaching a bit from the story, and it can sometimes be because the author has strayed from their own canon.

I read a truly awful hockey-romance themed ebook a few weeks ago. The story was all over the place, the characters went from being jerks to whiners and back again repeatedly, and there was a sad lack of research when it came to hockey facts, which annoyed me to no end. How hard is it to Google even the most basic hockey facts? Altogether, along with poor editing, I couldn’t get into it at all. It felt like the writer put down whatever they felt like in the moment, without a thought for previous actions or timelines. I can suspend my disbelief for just about any kind of story โ€“ I mean, look at what I write! โ€“ but this was too much. It’s just an example, of my own opinion, of how a story loses so much when an author isn’t consistent at all. Can you think of anything you’ve read recently that sounds similar?

I’m currently working on something brand new, in a new genre for me. It’s a fantasy story, and I’m making the rules up as I go, but writing notes as I go along as well. I’m sure I’ll contradict myself at some point โ€“ hence, the notes โ€“ but that’s why there’s the editing process. I hope the end product will be faithful to the world I’ve created and that I won’t have readers poking hole after hole in my efforts. It’s definitely got some plot points that will require firm guidelines. It’s not something I’ve spent a lot of time on before โ€“ well, not since I was a kid โ€“ but I’m excited to be working on something new and exciting anyway.

The rules are there for a reason. Then again, many of you are probably thinking, rules are meant to be broken. Maybe, maybe not. When it comes to my own writing, I’ll always be working on the things I need to, in order to improve and continue to deliver something I love, in the hopes you might love it as well. ๐Ÿ™‚

Take care, and happy reading!

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Some Book Suggestions

Here it is, another cold, snowy day, and I’m bundled up inside, wondering how much snow I’m going to have to shovel later. In the meantime, I’m spending day one of a three-day weekend catching up on some reading. I’ve got a gargantuan stack of to-be-read books on my nightstand, and a couple hundred or so ebooks in my queue on-line. If you know me at all, I love reading almost as much as I love writing, and part of what I love, is sharing and discussing awesome books I’ve read, or am reading.

So today, I’m going to show you a few of my recently read books that I would definitely recommend. If you’re looking for something to read after the last thing you’ve finished, or you’re interested in trying something new, these are my suggestions for today.

1.) Shades of Magic series, by V. E. Schwab

20180217_104918The first book in the series (pictured) is A Darker Shade of Magic. A good friend recommended this author to me, and I picked up the book, not sure what to expect. What I got was a refreshingly original fantasy story, with enigmatic characters and an exciting, danger-filled plot. There’s magic, alternate worlds, evil, good, love, and so much more. I devoured this first and second books immediately, and had to wait in agony for months for the third book. Loved them all. If you’re looking for something new in fantasy, give this one a try.

 

 

2.) The Invisible Library, book and series, by Genevieve Cogman

20180217_104948The premise is that there is an immense, inter-dimensional library out there, filled with scholarly librarians who make it their life’s work to travel to all the worlds, bringing back unique copies of books from every place. Not just a different year’s print of say, Jane Eyre, but lost novels of Charles Dickens, steampunk versions of Jane Austen, and so many more. The main character, Irene, a librarian with a particular fondness for the Sherlock Holmes books, is given an apprentice with his own secrets, and they’re thrust into a dangerous and politically charged search for yet another rare book. I’ve loved every book in the series (so far there are four) and who doesn’t love the idea of a library so huge that it takes literal days to get from one end to the other?

3.) The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker

20180217_105010Bought this one and didn’t know quite what to expect, then burned through it so fast, I was sad when it ended. It is about a golem and a jinni, otherwordly creatures brought to life in the real world with such ease and care that I can almost believe one would walk past me on the street. The book takes place in 1899 New York and the historical details are well-written without being too wordy, the characters are believable and full of life. This book isn’t quite fantasy, isn’t quite history, and definitely not quite romantic, but it can make you believe in things you never would have thought possible.

 

4.) A Studyย in Scarlet Women, book 1 of The Lady Sherlock series, by Sherry Thomas

20180217_105437The writer has changed Sherlock Holmes into Charlotte Holmes, and the idiosyncrasies that you may have loved about the original detective are here, but because she’s a woman, her situation is quite different. And still, she solves murders by pretending to work for her brother, Sherlock, a fabrication that allows her to do what she loves. There are familiar characters and if you’re looking for a fun, new twist on the old classics, I’d recommend this one.

 

 

 

5.) Historical Mysteries, various:

I don’t know why but I’ve been hooked on historical mysteries lately. There are a few series I’ve been reading, and several others I could go on and on about, but if you’re interested in anything of the sort, here are some I’d recommend (on top of the Lady Sherlock series I’ve already mentioned.)

Death at Bishop’s Keep, the Kathryn Ardleigh series, by Robin Paige, a husband and wife writing duo using a pen name. Kathryn Ardleigh is an American woman visiting her eccentric, elderly aunts in late-Victorian England only to be embroiled in a double-murder investigation. There are 12 books in the series and they were published starting back in the nineties, but I’ve enjoyed every one of them.

The Anatomist’s Wife, the Lady Darby mysteries, by Anna Lee Huber, about a widow who drew pictures and diagrams for her late husband, an anatomist, which, in the time period of the series, was not a respectable career. Because of her strange knowledge, she’s asked to assist in a murder investigation and helps, in spite of wanting to have nothing to do with it. I’ve enjoyed the five books in the series so far, and look forward to the next.

A Curious Beginning, the Veronica Speedwell mysteries, by Deanna Raybourn. I’ve read other historical mysteries by Ms. Raybourn but this is her most recent, and the main characters are unique, to say the least. Loved the fresh twists and characters as much as the mysteries themselves.

And Only to Deceive, the Lady Emily Murder Mysteries, by Tasha Alexander. This series is about a widow who begins in the first book by solving her own late husband’s murder. I’ve been reading this series since the start and have enjoyed each book very much. The author spends a decent amount of time researching the time period and places that the characters visit, from Greece, to Venice, to St. Petersburg.

So there you have it, today’s book recommendations. If you’ve read any of these, I’d love to hear your opinions. If you haven’t, go out and give one or more a try. On a miserable snowy day like today, I know I’m going to enjoy my next new book.

As always, take care and happy reading.

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Hobbies and Stuff

Someone commented recently on one of my stories (don’t recall which one, or what exactly the comment said) but it pointed out a flaw in most of the stories I’ve written. The comment was only directed at the one story, but I’ve been looking them over, and thinking about it, and it’s true. My characters have no hobbies. The men are worse off than the women, for sure. They don’t seem to do anything but play hockey, work out, and think about the women. The women, well, some read, they all drink a lot of wine, it seems, and watch hockey.

I’m not saying this is a huge problem, by any stretch. Be honest, when you read a romance, of any genre, do you want pages and pages of the main characters doing their own thing, whether it’s reading, playing video games, knitting, or going to the movies? Or would you rather they interact, go out on dates, etc.? I know if a story is really good, and when the chemistry is off the charts, I get bored fast by the pages in between their interactions. I skim the descriptions of jobs or whatever else fills the character’s day until I can get back to the good stuff. This is just my preference, so perhaps some of that has crept into my stories.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t have their hobbies. I think that in every healthy relationship, each party should have their own interests. I read, and write (though I don’t think I’d classify my writing as just a hobby), and with those two things, I’m mostly content. I’ve dabbled in other things in the past, like cross-stitching, scrapbooking, and painting, but nothing stuck like reading and writing. My guy, on the other hand, has a few game apps that he plays, also reads a bit (he’s my biggest fan ๐Ÿ™‚ ), and has his cigars and all his cigar buddies. I’m sure you all have your own interests, sometimes similar to your partners, sometimes different. Do you spend your days talking about it with friends and family? Probably not too often.

In my stories, I try to keep the pace brisk, without seeming rushed. That means I head from one character interaction to another, trying to keep the inner monologues and overly descriptive passages to a minimum. Again, the reason for this is that my own preference is to read something that is well-paced. So many books and stories get bogged down by too much description, whether it’s the setting, the way a character looks or dresses, or what they do at work. I know I find my eyes glazing over if it drags on paragraph after paragraph. I don’t want to know the infinite details of an ancient stone castle, or the minutiae of a character’s career. A few lines to get a sense of something, and done. I recently read an ebook that was a decent story, with fun characters, but for every line of dialogue, there were about three or four paragraphs of inner monologue, in between the dialogue, which ended up making a five minute conversation into about a ten page passage. It got a bit tedious, to say the least. I read a different ebook last week, where the story was 80% what the characters were doing apart from each other, with very little actual interaction between the two leads. It was boring, and I found myself not caring at all about them when they were together โ€“ which, by the way, they only seemed to get together to have some sexy time.

So back to my original point โ€“ should I spend more time giving my characters more well-rounded lives? I worry that if I try to write about these other hobbies and activities, that I might actually have to know more about them. I could have the ladies do some of the things I’ve done, be it reading or scrapbooking, but beyond that, I don’t know what I could have them spending time on. Gardening? Don’t know about it other than how to cut grass and pull weeds. Making clothes? Nope. Haven’t used a sewing machine since junior high school.

And when it comes to the men, I’d have an even harder time. What do they spend their time doing? My dad has always been a carpenter. He’s spent years working at various hardware stores, and most of his spare time making things; furniture, picture frames toys, etc. I know about those things, so I could have someone doing that, but what hockey player is going to have that kind of time on his hands, outside of working out, practice, games, and travelling? And that’s another thing… what kind of hobby travels well? Reading, sure. That’s easy, but not every player on a team is going to be a reader. What else is there? Card games? Picking up women? I seriously have no idea. So how could I possibly write about it?

I guess I could wing it, just like I do with most of their lives. I don’t know how much they work out, or practice, or how they speak to each other, and I think I’ve managed to fake it all right for these past few years, no? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Then I do run the risk of someone calling me out on getting the facts wrong. I wish I could spend my days researching everything to the max. I would read up on everything I could, travel to all the cities I write about, see all the arenas, and take notes like crazy. But I can’t do that, not yet, anyway. So for now, I am winging it.

I guess the question I want to ask today is, what are your hobbies? How much time do you spend on them, in between work, kids, and other obligations? And would you really care to see it in anything you read, or would you prefer to read about the characters and the story? Just thinking some thoughts today. ๐Ÿ™‚

As always, take care, and happy reading!

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Winter and Hockey

Today is Hockey Day in Canada. Not exactly a national holiday but a day that always brings a smile to my face. Every Canadian hockey team is seeing action today, starting with Calgary vs. Winnipeg, which starts in about an hour. I may watch some of it, but my family is coming over and we’re going to be outside, enjoying the mid-winter reprieve from the bitter cold we’ve had lately. At the moment, I have a coffee in my hand, and a blanket over my legs, and I started to think about the romance of winter. And hockey. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Of course, you know one of my major themes is hockey romance, as in, ordinary women meeting and falling in love with professional hockey players. Sports-themed romance in general is nothing new. There are thousands of stories out there about football players, baseball players, basketball, rugby, soccer (or football again, for my readers outside of North America.) and even golf, tennis, and other pros that I just can’t think of right now. Hockey alone has more than I could ever read. Not all of them good, necessarily, but they are plentiful.

What is it about hockey that’s so amazing? I know why I love it. Part of it is ingrained from birth, I’m sure. I did live in Edmonton for several years growing up, during the time of the Oilers’ greatest years, pre- and post-Gretzky. It’s fun being in a hockey city, seeing jerseys in bars and pubs on game nights, being able to go to games (wish I could go to more… any time someone wants to gift me with tickets, or take me to a game, I’m all for it!) but outside of all that, what is it about the game itself?

It’s rules are fairly simple: put more pucks in the net than your opponent. Sounds easy, right? Now do it while balancing on razor-sharp skates, using a stick to guide the puck, while still watching out for and dodging defencemen, then shoot the puck past a goalie into a net 6′ wide by 4′ tall. Piece of cake, right? Oh, also there’s basically no out of bounds, so except for penalties or off-side calls, play doesn’t stop, so you get short breaks between each 45-second (sometimes longer) shift and still have to be faster, stronger, and have a better shot than the other guys. No problem.

I learned to skate at a very young age, and while it is like riding a bike, in that you never forget how, I certainly never had the skills or talent to do more than skate laps around a rink. So I’m amazed every time I watch a game. They are so fast, all of them. Their stamina is impressive, and having the hockey sense to pass a puck, accept a pass, or keep moving forward with the opponents breathing down your neck, it’s all so incredible to me. I feel the same about a lot of sports and athletes. They all make it look so easy, don’t they? It’s just something they do, like I breathe, or write.

And of course, what’s not to love about the season? There’s nothing like that first wide-spread snowfall, when the snow covers everything and after the sun goes down, the air takes on this sort of soft, pink hue, and the world is hushed. Winter was made for introverts and homebodies, like myself. Winter means it’s OK to bundle up in a dozen blankets and stay in by the fire with a good book and a cup of tea. Now, add in a hockey game with your favorite team. I love it! You have no idea how many stories I’ve written or plotted or edited while watching hockey. Or maybe you do. ๐Ÿ˜‰ It must be pretty obvious with the subject matter I write.

I don’t know if I’m expressing myself very well. I’m not going to lie and say I love winter all day, every day. The days when I have to shovel two feet of snow from my front and back walks, I don’t love. I don’t like having to start my car twenty minutes before I can leave work because it’s so bloody cold, the car just won’t run, and I certainly don’t enjoy spending an extra half hour or more on my morning or afternoon commutes because the roads are in such rough shape. But those few days in the winter, when I’m not working, when I’m watching the snow fall, while warm inside with a cup of coffee, and I can watch a good hockey game, those days, I love. And to me, that’s romantic.

Take care, and happy reading!

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New Year, Nothing New

Here we are. It’s 2018. And I’ve accomplished nothing so far. To be fair, I was travelling until four days ago, and this is the first chance I’ve had to sit down and read or relax since then. November and December were crazy as well, so all together, I haven’t had much downtime since before Halloween. That’s OK though. I’ve been squeezing in a lot of writing, or planning numerous stories, even with my busy schedule. Even made some awesome notes and headway in a couple of brand new projects. They’re not quite ready for sharing yet, but I may post a ‘sneak peek’ in the coming days. I’ll keep you posted, as always.

Does anyone out there do New Year’s resolutions? I don’t. They’re never a good idea, in my opinion. It might be something you can stick with, but in general, New Year’s resolutions just don’t work. I remember when I was going to the gym regularly โ€“ ah, I miss it so much. Also miss weighing less…ย  โ€“ every January, there’d be this massive uptick in attendance. It would last for a good month, then by February, they’d start dropping like flies, until we were back to the ‘usual’ crowd. It may have been that they switched to different times (I used to go at opening every morning, 5:30 a.m., it was the best, most productive time for me) but my guess is most people just didn’t last. And that’s OK too. I couldn’t continue going to the gym because of the cost. I’ve been seriously thinking about carving out space in my budget for it though, because I loved going. I don’t think I’d classify that as a resolution though.

If anything, my resolutions are the same as always. Save more money, don’t sweat the small stuff, and write more. Always write more.

And on that note, I’m going to get to it. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season, and that you’re not letting the winter blues get you down. For my part, I’ll be so happy when the daylight starts to stretch again. ๐Ÿ™‚

Until next time, take care and happy reading!

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Vacation Days

Hello. It’s been a while, and I have been busy. I’ve been writing, reading a lot, working even more, and wishing I could win the lottery somehow, just so I could write all the time. ๐Ÿ™‚ Alas, bills…

In other news, I just got back from a wonderful vacation, to Havana, Cuba. I’ve shared some pictures, if you’d care to look, and rest assured, I wasn’t a total sloth on the trip. I did write some, and have an entire story plotted out in my mind now, all thanks to the wonderful sights, food, drinks and people that I met while I was there. No, I’m not telling you anything, except that it’ll be a story in a certain spy-adventure-romance story that I write. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Not much else to report. I have also finished a new Ice story, and I will be posting it up on Lit soon. I’ve attached a preview in the Sneak Peeks section. Be sure to check it out, and check back for updates on any other news.

I wish I had something more interesting to share, something about writing, or my struggles with writing, or even anything good I’ve written or experienced lately. Other than vacation – which was incredible, let me tell you! – my life isn’t terribly exciting these days. I’m just trying to work and save and pay some bills. You know, life. UGH.

Rest assured, I’m still hard at work on my next writing project. Sometimes it’s hockey-romance, sometimes it’s my adventures, and sometimes it’s something else entirely. I’ve had a few other files on the go lately that are totally different from other things I’ve done. They’re not ready for sharing but writing them has been fun and new.

So that’s it. That’s all I’ve got. Please check out my pictures below. My holiday was wonderful, and exotic and everything I saw and tasted was brand new, and I loved every minute of it. Even when I fell down and hurt my foot, which led to a lot of swelling and limping for the next several days. ๐Ÿ™‚

As always, take care, and happy reading!

 

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