November Recap

A few days late, but it’s been that kind of month.

On the personal front, I did 7 shows in November, and one on the 1st of December. 2 of those shows were 2-day events. That’s my Christmas season done. My next for sure show is KeyCon in May. I might make it to KeyCon Lite in January. I’ll have more about that in the “looking ahead to next year” post in a month or so.

November is also National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo for shorter). I do it every year, since I’m writing anyway. I did not make it to the 50,000 words this year. My November total word count was 24,749 (which brought my 2019 word count up to 481,260).

I hit a roadblock on Zoedar #3 at the end of October/beginning of November which slowed me down a lot. Instead of finishing off that novel, I worked on a few short stories I had on the docket and the outline for Lost Light (which doesn’t count towards total words). I’m pretty sure I know what’s going on with Zoedar now but I’m going to leave it on the back burner a bit longer.

My goal right now is to finish off my “520,000 words in a year” goal before Christmas (as of writing this I have about 14k to go). Lost Light is my next book-length project as I’d like to have it ready for KeyCon and the Kraken Tea in the spring. Once Lost Light is done I plan to do the revisions on Zoedar #1+2. I think having those two books closer to finalized will help me with #3 (which may be split into 2 books making it a 5-book set instead of a 4-book set).

I guess the next time I touch base with everyone it will be the end-of-year wrap-up post. Have an awesome month and a blessed whatever it is you celebrate. I hope you had a good NaNo (for those who participate). See you soon!

 

The 2020 Supportive Creative Challenge

I have a challenge for you. Yes you. You artists, photographers, novelists, poets, playwrights, actors, sculptors, potters, creators of all stripes. I have a challenge for you.

When was the last time you gave another creator a shout out? Why? How many? On what platform? When was the last time you recommended a fellow local creator? A small-timer? An ‘I’m just starting out’ friend? An indie?

It’s late fall and everywhere professional organizations are releasing best-of lists and honouring folks with awards and accolades. Best photos, best art installations, best novels … are they really? Or are they just the best ones to be noticed? The best ones with lots of financial backing? The best of the ones with professional distribution and media attention?

I belong to a non-profit author’s collective. We’re supposed to support each other. We’re supposed to offer each other advice and assistance so new authors don’t get scammed, so we don’t publish with horrible blurbs or ugly covers, so we can split the costs and risks of promotional ventures. We’re supposed to shine a light on each other so more readers can find us. And too often I feel like I’m holding all the candles.

I’m burning out.

It’s my job to find events, pay the fees, find authors to split the costs, coordinate people coming and going from events, set up times, displays, and so on. It’s my job to post people’s readings and launches to the public page, to say “hey, there’s a new release here, check it out”, to add people’s covers and links to their albums so their books are visible. I share events. I invite people. I walk from table to table at conventions and invite new authors to join us.

I love my job. I signed up for this. I volunteer to do this. And everyone I work with is full of thanks and gratitude, and for the most part, they are polite, cooperative, and on the ball. (And since I know a few will pop over to read this, I honestly have ZERO complaints about the work I have done on the group’s behalf these last 5 years).

I’m not saying any of this to complain. I’m not. I do my job and I don’t expect others to do it for me. What I’m talking about here is the above and beyond. I’m talking about the Tweet that went across my feed today asking for #canlit recommendations, the one I retweeted with my own list of local 2019 releases attached. I’m talking about the threads in writing groups asking for favourite authors, new release recommendations, favourite book you read this month, etc., the ones I respond to ONLY with the names and titles of local indie authors, or indie authors I chat with online on a regular basis. I’m talking about having a reader in front of me at a convention and writing SOMEONE ELSE’S NAME on the back of my business card so they can check out an author who isn’t me. I’m talking about loading every new release by every author friend I have onto my grandmother’s tablet every other week because she’s a voracious reader and a random $2.99 ebook sale on someone’s dashboard might be the difference between them writing the next book or giving up.

So, when was the last time you did something like this? When someone asks you to recommend a photographer, do you pull out the big-business’s information or the up-and-comer? When someone asks you for reading recommendations do you repeat what Oprah said or do you suggest someone local, someone self-published? Do you buy your friend a mass-produced print from Target for their house warming or a print by a local photographer?

Maybe it’s just the way I grew up. We had paintings and prints and art in our house, the majority of it by local artists we found at flea markets and street festivals. The giant oil painting in the living room was done by my friend’s father. It’s brilliant. I don’t think he ever got a gallery showing. He deserved one. We bought locally authored books from small presses long before self-publishing started. We frequented small, locally-owned stores over chain stores long before #buylocal got a hashtag. We went to indie muscians’ CD release parties and stopped to talk to authors sitting at the book store with a table full of books to sign. I grew up valuing local, and indie, and handmade. I want to share that with others.

So, what’s the challenge?

I want you, Dear Creator, to boost other creators. I want you to spend 2020 lifting other people up. I want you to seek out “what should I read next” posts and list self-published authors as recommendations. I want you to tag your artist/photographer/crafter/maker friend in every post that might land them a client. I want you to review local short films and local music videos and locally authored books. I want you to visit local coffee shops and shop at local Mom and Pop shops.

Challenges are supposed to have a number, right? Something catchy? 20 in 2020?

I honestly don’t care about a number or a catchy title. I want you to put your favourite creators and artists and authors on blast. I want to start word of mouth wildfires. I want you to push yourself. Do 20 in the year. Do 20 every month. Do 20 every week. Do what your time and energy and budget will allow for. Help as many people as you are capable of.

We’re all awesome at sharing #shoplocal memes. Now lets support local in more active ways – share, recommend, review, buy when possible, show up when possible, and help shed some much deserved light on as many awesome creators as possible.

Who’s with me?

Too Good to be True

I encountered two inter-connected stories this past week or so that got me thinking.

First, a newer author was talking online about their attempts to garner reviews, blurbs, or any kind of attention from several well-known, high-selling authors in their genre. Each attempt was met with polite form letters from secretaries or assistants thanking them for their interest and stating the “professional” author simply had no time to take a personal interest in their writing.

It’s a bummer, I know. I’ve given away copies of a few of my books to different visiting celebs with no tangible results and no way of knowing if they ever read them.

The thing is, someone like Stephen King or JK Rowling or any other big-name author probably is too busy to answer every single piece of fan mail personally. They get letters by the boatload and they’re probably evenly split between fans telling them how wonderful they are and aspiring or newbie authors asking for advice, help, or a good word. They can’t do it for all of them so they have to make a policy of not doing it for any of them. Not to mention, things like endorsements of other authors’ books are probably restricted by their publisher in some way.

And yes, I literally mean TOO BUSY. I mean 6-8 hours a day, 5-7 days a week, in a chair, at a desk, putting words on paper or editing words already on paper, plus meetings with publishers and agents, plus meetings with the film people, plus scheduled public appearances, plus family time, plus eating, sleeping, showering, and travelling, plus personal destress time … and I’m probably missing a hundred little things. They’re people. They have lives. And they don’t owe complete strangers anything.

The second story is much closer to home. I was at Memory Keepers today with three other lovely ladies (one is the librarian in charge of the group, the other two are old enough to be my grandmothers and they are wonderful). We were discussing future meeting dates and how the Monday evening creative writing group was doing.

One of the older ladies, I’ll call her Marie (that is not her real name), was considering going to the evening writing group but wanted to know if a specific lady was a regular attendee. She was talking about a local author, whom I’ll call Karen (also not her real name). Marie does not particularly like Karen and doesn’t like doing writing-related events at the library if Karen will be there. Why is this connected to the first story? Because the librarian said, “No, Karen isn’t a part of that group. She’s too good for our little group. She’s a professional.

Looking back, she didn’t do the self-publishing workshop in our area a few years back either, and as far as I know, she only does workshops if she’s leading them or if an author she considers bigger than her is leading them.  To be fair, she’s a prolific writer, and she works from home as a full-time writer. She claims she makes a decent income from online sales.

What is the difference between “Karen” and JK Rowling? Probably about a million titles sold. And a few movie deals. And a general level of recognition. Yeah. I get that. I mean, what is the difference between Karen being too busy for local writers’ groups and workshops and JK Rowling being too busy to send a random writer a blurb for the back of their book?

I’m a professional writer and I’m busy. I write multiple hours a day on top of raising two kids, keeping a house, editing for myself, freelance editing, marketing, sales and shows, extended family obligations, my own personal needs like eating and sleeping, not letting my marriage fall apart, keeping two pets alive … but I find time to be a part of local writers’ groups (like Memory Keepers) and online writers’ groups. I don’t post every day. I don’t answer every question. I can’t mentor anyone. I can’t volunteer to beta read anymore. I barely have time for reviews! So I get it. I understand what it is to be busy. But I try to be a little active in the writing community. There are people newer than me, less experienced than me, and if I can steer them clear of some of the common mistakes, I will.

I get the feeling that Karen isn’t too busy. I’m sure Karen could find the time for a 2-hour meeting once a month. Everyone has different loads and different abilities but I do know Karen and I’m sure she could manage it. She doesn’t want to, and that makes her come across as better-than-thou, whether she means it that way or not. Whereas I’m sure many big-name authors miss the little interactions with the community, the critiques and the reviews and the give-and-take and the fan mail – the things they genuinely don’t have time for.

I wish we didn’t have to put our nose so hard to the grindstone to make this whole thing work. I wish big-name authors had more time for the little guy. I wish successful little-guys would stop emulating the big-name authors and stay in touch with their local and online communities. I wish the community was important. I wish we could all spare more time for each other. I wish I could mentor and volunteer more of my time but the tasks that make money are the ones that take priority right now.

The little guys, all we really have are each other. So most of all, I wish successful local (to wherever they live) indie authors wouldn’t get too big for their britches and stay in touch with the up and comers. We all started somewhere. Let’s not leave each other behind.

October Recap

What a busy month! My sister-in-law was in town for some work training and brought her kids (who stayed at the farm) so we had multiple visits with them while they were here. Plus Thanksgiving for two sides of the family, a family brunch for my son’s birthday, and a school-friend party for my son’s birthday. I worked the federal election (which meant 3 evenings of training plus a 16 hour day). The kids had 3 no-school days this month. And of course, Halloween.

Phew.

I managed just over 60,000 words this month (making it the fourth month I’ve topped 50k in 30 or 31 days, plus June where I knocked out 100k in 30 days for a double Nano). My annual total to date is 474,000.

I’ll be slowing down now until the end of the year, taking lots of days off for sales, birthdays, and the holidays. My goal is to write 1500 words every available day until December 19th. That will put me over my annual goal with enough to spare to cover sick days or surprise commitments.

I’ve also started a program with Strongest Families to help me learn to deal with my daughter’s outbursts better. That should wrap up early in the new year. It’s a distance thing (online and phone) so it’s not physically taxing but it is emotionally powerful. Lots of digging. Lots of reflection.

Only 2 months to go. Whatever happens, 2019 will be my most productive year to date (as I just topped my 2018 annual total!)

Writing Collabs

I see this a lot in writing groups: “I’m looking for someone to co-write a book with me” or “Anyone want to collab on a project?” or more general questions about sharing experiences with collaborative writing and how to make it work.

I can answer those more general questions.

First of all, when you are cowriting, you need an idea that appeals to both writers in a genre both writers are familiar with and comfortable in, or at least a genre one writing is familiar with and the other is willing to explore. You need to be on the same page (no pun intended) regarding the plot and overall direction of the book.

When I was cowriting, I was a teenager. My best friend and I were creating a massive fantasy world together with complex magical systems and a large ensemble cast. It was self-insertion, big time, with the main characters being based on she and I, and the majority of the cast based on our friends in some way. It was something fun that we worked on during lunch and on the weekends. She was the inventor, she came up with cool scenes and plot twists and world-building facts. I was the archiver, I kept track of the information and blended it into a coherent story and a stable world. She was also the artist, drawing pictures of characters, scenes, and the map.

It worked for us. Until we graduated and life got in the way and she handed it all over to me.

I haven’t done any further collaborations (and I will explain why later in this post) but I did work for many years as a ghostwriter and some of the tips are the same. Like, a good contract makes a good friend. Even if you are working with a friend or family member whom you trust (unless it’s your spouse, but even then …) have a contract laying out who will do what, how decisions will be made when you disagree, the approximate timeline for each draft, how often you need to check in with each other about the project, the credit/payment split for after its published (no, really, settle that before you put even a single word on the paper, not after its written and ready to be published), who owns the rights to what, how much of it you can share publicly, and what will happen if one of the other backs out of the project. Both of you need to sign it and have physical copies of it.

Be open and honest about what you want to do, what you feel your strengths and abilities are, and what you expect the other person to do. Too often, people are asking for collaborators when they really want ghostwriters. The difference? Collaborators are both active participants in the worldbuilding, writing, and editing process – maybe in different ways, maybe not in perfectly equal proportions, but they are both involved every step of the way, and they receive equal or near equal credit for the work. Ghostwriters receive an outline or summary from a client and do 100% of the writing and self-editing phases, sometimes they even do part of the outlining phase too. Someone who knows they want a ghostwriter generally offers a lump sum in exchange for full rights. Someone who is trying to disguise a ghostwriting contract as a collaboration will say “I’ll come up with the idea, you write it, and we’ll split the profits 50/50”. If you’re going to do all the work, get paid up front and let them do what they want with it, or do your own thing and keep all the money – only agree to a royalty split if they’ll agree to a fair labour split.

Collabs are difficult things. You are taking two authors with different ideas, different experiences, and different writing styles, and trying to create a single book. Back in high school, the style part wasn’t too big a deal – we were still trying to find our creative voices so we were experimenting together, exploring possibilities and variations until we found what we wanted. But we had a lot of long, sometimes tense, conversations about how to blend our ideas. Dragons were vetoed, she didn’t want full-size dragons in this series. Since it started as her idea and I was invited in, I had to let that one go. We argued about types and levels of powers for different characters, about how they would react in different situations, about the outcome of different story arcs …

When you write, you get attached to characters, to snippets of dialogue, to scenes, and you don’t want to cut them in the editing process. That’s where the saying “kill your darlings” comes in. For the most part we approached these problems logically, picking the solution that made the most sense for the story as a whole, but sometimes it was hard. I’d have an idea and it would hurt that she didn’t see the genius of it. And I’m sure my reluctance or refusal to consider some of her ideas stung her as well.

This leads me into why I haven’t done a collab since then, or the biggest reason anyway (I also have no time to deal with that level of project right now). I don’t trust anyone enough to work with them on a writing collaboration.

It comes down to trust. Trust that they will hold to the contract. Trust that they won’t dismiss your ideas and then steal them for another project. Trust that they won’t walk away partway through. Trust that they will listen to you with an open mind and keep disagreements civil and logical.

I don’t understand how complete strangers on Facebook can jump into a writing collaboration project together. I just … how do you know if you like the other person’s ideas? Or their writing style? Or the level of graphic content they want to include (violent or sexual, too much or too little)? You don’t know.

Do these people asking strangers if they want to co-write hold job interviews to find the right person? Do they settle for the best of the bunch or do they hold out for the right person? Is it like hiring a secretary or finding a spouse?

Writing is a deeply personal thing for me, even when I’m writing fiction. I throw myself into it. It is a passion. If I’m going to work with someone, it has to be someone I can trust with those deep secrets, those hopes and dreams, those vulnerabilities and fears.

To be honest, I do miss those long walks while Steph and I talked about Zoedar, brainstorming and creating together. And I think, when my kids are grown and my husband is retired, and my life doesn’t revolve around keeping small things alive and bills paid and food on the table anymore, maybe I will find someone who will take long walks with me, someone who wants to take on the vast process of co-writing a book or a series. Until them, I’m going to knuckle under and get through the mountain of projects waiting to be tackled.

And I wish all the co-writing teams out there the very best of luck and success.

The McCallister Series – Review

Full disclosure time! I signed up to review the four books in the McCallister Series through Silver Dagger Book Tours. They provided me with Kindle copies of each of the books in exchange for my honest review on my blog, on Goodreads, and on Amazon.

Author photo_270x400

The McCallister Series is a 4-book mystery series by Canadian author, L.V. Gaudet.  She also writes under the pen name Vivian Munnoch. She has 7 books published as L.V. Gaudet and 2 as Vivian Munnoch.

The McCallister Series focuses on a serial killer in a small, semi-rural city. She writes in a way that allows you to see inside the killer’s head without revealing his identity until the end of book 1.

 

McAllister 1 - Where the Bodies Are_372x600Where the Bodies Are – The McAllister Series Book 1

This book begins with a body in an alley but the girl isn’t dead. Jane Doe is kept in a medical coma in the hospital while police work to find her identity – and stop the steadily rising body count.

L.V. Gaudet writes several scenes from an unknown POV – the killer’s. Referred to only as “he” or “the man”, we get to see inside his head without discovering his identity – we get to watch his mental deterioration and see what is driving him.

The pressure really starts to build when Jane Doe goes missing from the hospital and the police find a massive burial site with bodies dating back generations.

 

McAllister 2 - The McAllister Farm_377x600The McAllister Farm – The McAllister Series Book 2

Book 2 takes place almost a full generation before book 1 – but to avoid spoilers I strongly suggest reading book 1 first.

The McAllisters live on a small farm on the edge of a small but growing town. They keep to themselves. William McAllister, the father, goes out of town often on business trips.

This book takes us into the mind of the man who one day creates a serial killer when he’s still an impressionable boy and examines the circumstances around his childhood and early adulthood. This book answers a lot of the backstory questions from book 1.

McAllister 3 - Hunting Michael Underwood_373x600Hunting Michael Underwood – The McAllister Series Book 3

Michael Underwood was introduced in book 1. He is a police officer, and he was working undercover as an orderly at the hospital where Jane Doe was being cared for. It was his job to keep an eye on her in case the killer returned.

Now, both Jane Doe and Michael Underwood are missing and it’s up to Jim McNelly, the detective working the serial killer case in book 1, and Lawrence Hawkworth, a newspaper reporter, to track down both missing people. Both men are convinced there’s more going on, things they aren’t seeing. They have one man in custody, but there are too many questions unanswered yet.

McAllister 4 - Killing David McAllister_391x600Killing David McAllister – The McAllister Series Book 4

In the series finale, L.V. Gaudet wraps up multiple loose ends over multiple story arcs. What becomes of David and Jason McAllister? What about the rest of their family? What is Jane Doe’s fate (I don’t want to post spoilers here so I won’t refer to her by name)? Will justice be served and in what form, or will the killer escape to disappear and become someone new?

The clock is ticking and always there is the fear of another body.

 

 

REVIEW

I have individual reviews of each book posted to Goodreads. I’ve given each book 4 out of 5 stars.

My main reason for the 4 star rating was the simple, often repetitive language of the books. The pacing, story, and mystery were all great, but I found often a word was used twice in a sentence (and not words like ‘the’ or ‘a’), or twice in consecutive sentences.

I found the author’s habit of writing each chapter from a different 3 person POV made it hard to connect to the characters. The chapters were short – you never got to spend enough time with any character to build rapport, and a few times, you were with a POV character only once through the book. I felt I didn’t know anything about the police office, Jim McNelly, or his assistant, the undercover officer, Michael Underwood, or the nurse caring for Jane Doe.

Book 2 was better for character building because it focused less on twisting the reader through a mystery and more on the development of the characters.

Book 3 returned to the POV shifting, but now that I knew more backstory and now that I was further in the series I was able to pick up a little more about the characters.

The series is written in the present tense, which made things interesting. I’m not used to that. It wasn’t bad – she writes it consistently and avoids the major pitfalls of that style choice. I just found that because I’m not used to third person present tense it was difficult to slip into.

Overall I would recommend this series to anyone who enjoys a dark mystery. There are some gruesome descriptions of dead bodies throughout so I wouldn’t categorize this as a cozy mystery.

 

Thank you to Silver Dagger Book Tours for arranging this review tour and providing the pictures and needed files.

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Long-Term Writing

I started writing my debut novel in May of 2014. By November I was publishing it (keep in mind that this wasn’t the first novel I wrote, just the first novel I published). Pieces took me less than a year to write. Both were just under 70k,

The Rose Garden took me 4 years two write 5 books, and that was with a MAJOR plot-driven road-block while writing book 2. They ranged from 64k-95k. The Underground took me 3 years to write 8 books of 20-32k each.

But Zoedar? I started the Zoedavian Chronicles with my best friend when we were 15 or 16 – half a lifetime ago. I’m 32. I’ve literally been working on this series for half of my life.

Why? Since May of 2014 I have written and published 19 books and 3 short stories. Why is it taking me 15+ years to write a 4 book series?

Well, book 1 of The Zoedavian Chronicles is roughly 83k, longer than all but 2 of the previous books I wrote. Book 2 is roughly 97k, equal in length to the longest of the previous books I wrote. Book 3 is shaping up to be 130k – longer than any single book I’ve written, nearly as long as the ENTIRE Underground series combined.

The 5 book Rose Garden Series is approximately 382k combined. This 4 books series looks like it will be at least 410k. So yeah, length plays a huge roll in how long this is taking.

Also, 410k? At 15 years old? There was no way I could have finished a project that large at that age and had it be any good. (Trust me on this. I wrote a MASSIVE vampire project in high school and it’s not salvageable – believe me, I tried).

The biggest reason this project took me so long? I wasn’t ready. I keep telling writers to write crap, and I mean it. That garbaged vampire series taught me A LOT about writing. But I knew in the back of my mind that I was writing crap, I was writing practice pieces, and THIS project called to me, I knew it was special, I knew it held potential.

And I knew I didn’t yet have the ability to write it.

I tried a few times over the years, starting it, outlining it, refining it, revising it. I made so many changes as I learned more about history, religion, cultures outside of my own, and how writing fiction ties into politics. I’d play with it awhile and then put it aside. I’d make some changes to the outlining or the world-building and then put it aside.

Then I started both Rose Garden and The Underground and I knew I had to finish those series completely before I started any other large-scale projects. Even though, by that time, I was itching to start on this for real.

I’ve gone further with this project than I ever have before. I’m still making changes, with the help of a talented, dedicated, and thoughtful beta reader. I still add to the worldbuilding. I still doubt if I’m ready to really tell this story. But now is the time. I feel good about this. It’s coming together.

Writing a book or a series that takes FOREVER is a unique challenge. You have to stay motivated to work on a single project for a lot longer. You have to resist the urge to eternally edit/revise and never finish writing. You have to be strict about cutting everything that isn’t necessary because over the years I have fallen in love with countless facts and fun bits that don’t further the story. They will find a place somewhere, but not here, not now. And you have to be willing to let go of things that no longer work, like beloved character names or plot twists. And you can’t give in to the urge to rush through it. I’ve been working on this a long time, I am not going to ruin it now by rushing things.

 

A Long Time Coming

Way back in high school (okay, I’m not that old but it was half a lifetime ago) I met this girl and somehow, even with me being a complete dufus and so socially awkward it was past laughable, we became best friends.

She started this story with her two best friends from middle school who she didn’t see anymore, sort of as a way to keep them all together. She added me to it and eventually, the other two were dropped.

We started putting real work into it, instead of just “wouldn’t it be cool if we were princesses from another planet!” We created a map (she drew it, I did the labelling), a language, cultures, races, magical systems, and an entire history. We worked on it so much that she’d dream about it at night. She’d tell me the dreams and I’d record them, compiling them and blending them to create a consistent story line.

We tried a comic adaptation but that didn’t work out.

We started work on a novel but the story shifted too much.

And then we graduated.

I kept tinkering with the world and the story and we’d meet up every few months to chat about it and hash things out. I got married and had kids. She got an awesome career. And at some point, our world was put on a shelf.

Until now.

With her permission, I took it down, dusted it off, and started cleaning up the mess of storylines and versions and adaptations we’d created.

I’m now working on book 3 in the series that we always dreamed of writing. And you can learn all about it here.

The world is called Thelara. The series is called The Zoedavian Chronicles. And her name was Steph. I wish I could see more of her but kids, work, books, friends … life has gotten in the way. But I hope, someday soon, she and I will be getting together for drinks to celebrate the publication of the story we once dreamed of writing.

September Recap

The kids went back to school this month and with that comes routine. I have a set time to wake up, set jobs to do at set times, and a large chunk of a quiet day to write with no kids underfoot. I do have to chase the cat around but that’s life.

Oh yeah. Got a new cat. He’s a white and silver tabby, about 5 months old. We named him Zephyr.

Now that the important news is out of the way …

In other news, our dog has been with us a year. She’s down to a healthy weight now and she’s affectionate and energetic. We’re still working on the listening skills but as a 6 year old rescue, well, there’s only so much we’ll be able to do, I think.

There was a black belt test on the 28th. I wasn’t testing (I don’t get to test again until April) but I attended to help with setup and show support. That night was the Award Dinner for our academy. It was a nice excuse to get fancied up and have a nice meal. I was selected for the Role Model of the Year award, which comes as a delightful surprise.

Nothing Everything Nothing, my first novel, was rereleased as a 2nd edition, with a new cover, a new forward, some minor edits, and some bonus content. The last three books in the Underground series have been released (Turncoats, Sunlight, and Cheyanne and Other Tales from Underground). All 4 are available on Amazon as paperbacks and ebooks.

One show this month with the Lorette Family Fun Days, sold 1 book. Probably won’t do it next year.

Writing. I got back to writing this month. I finished Zoedar book 2 and sent it to the beta reader and started on Zoedar book 3.

Let me tell you a bit about the creation process of this series. It’s been my back burner series for a long time. I’ve written scenes and ideas and scrapped them and written others and none of it was ever thrown out. I had a 108k manuscript written, it was supposed to be book 1. When I sat down to work on this project for real, I decided to add a whole bunch to the beginning and rearrange the existing timeline, creating an all-new book 1 (which used some material from the old manuscript) with book 2 being the bulk of the old manuscript. Which is why those books went so fast.

Book 3 is all new territory. I’ve never gotten this far on this project before. I had outlines and timelines and a map of how the war unfolds, but I hadn’t written any of this down yet. My typing speed is great, it’s the actual creating process that takes the most amount of time. Most of writing a book is staring at the screen trying to figure out what word comes next. When the muse is kind and the words come easily, then daily word counts are no problem.

Because I was so far behind after taking August off to edit, I wanted to push myself this month. I’m now at a point where I should be able to finish on time without having to write several hours on holidays.

Oh, I also did a little more work on my memoirs. Those are coming along slowly and I’m going to be rearranging them in the new year.

September Word Count Total: 69550

Zoedar Book 2 finished word count: 94450 (did 11k of that in September)

Zoedar Book 3 end of month word count: 54003

Zoedar Book 3 projected completion date: end of October at a final word count of 110k+

It’s Just a Dream

While this is a semi-common question in any writers’ group, I have seen it or a variation of it pop up three of four times in the last two weeks in one specific group.

What if my main character wakes up at the end of the story and it was all just a dream?

New writers seem particularly interested in this and ask if it’s doable, if readers will be okay with it, or how to do it well.

In general, my answer is NO. Don’t do this. Let’s look at the reasons why the answer is no, and then look at ways you could still explore this trope without upsetting the reader.

So, why is my answer a fairly hard no? First of all, it’s lazy writing. A lot of writers fall back on this when they have pushed their main character too far, stuck them in an inescapable corner, taken something critical from them, or done something unforgivable to them. But it’s okay! It was just a dream! See, the character is fine. No. Just no. If you’re going to be mean to a character, commit to it, don’t flinch away from it, and don’t cross boundaries you or your reader aren’t comfortable with in the first place. As for inescapable corners – go back, redo your outline, fix the plot holes, put some work into your writing and fix it so the hero can fight or think their way out.

Second, it’s not as neat, cool, unpredictable, or surprising of a twist as you think it is. Alice in Wonderland is perhaps the most famous of these stories where Alice is written into an inescapable situation (at least in the movie version, I’m rustier on the written version, apologies) and wakes up. There’s supposed to be a lingering question as to whether it was a dream or not, but considering that her body never moved from her sister’s side? The Wizard of Oz is another, this time the adventure being the dream/hallucination of the main character while she’s knocked out. Again, there is some question as to whether it was fully a dream or not, and in the books at least, she does go back, and in Oz, they know she was really there. The relationship between Oz and our reality is blurry, and the question of Dorothy’s body during all of this is, as far as I know, unanswered.

Third, you’re cheating the reader. Every hobby has a cost. The cost of supplies, the cost of time, the cost of effort. Reading comes at the price of the book (or a trip to the library), the cost of the time it takes to read that book, and an investment of interest, emotion, and attention. That’s why you write engaging characters in the first place, isn’t it? You want the reader to care what happens. You want them to be scared for your character, to cheer for them, to flip another page to see what happens next, to find out how the character escapes or succeeds. As a reader, when I have invested several hours of my time, as well as emotional energy into a character and a story, I want a satisfying ending. “And then he woke up” is not satisfying. But why? Simple. Because none of the trials, stresses, or dangers that I was invested in, none of the risk I was worried about and none of the rewards I was cheering for, matter. They were never real. So, why did I bother reading this book if none of it mattered? And why would I bother picking up anything else by that author?

But, sometimes dreams can be useful, as short term or long term plot devices. How do you use them properly? (And by properly, I mean, in ways that won’t upset your reader).

  1. Short dreams – dreams that are used to show the character is haunted by or scared of something, dreams that reveal snippets of memories, dreams that reveal prophesies or warnings – these are good, useful plot devices. They can deliver manageable chunks of backstory, they can provide foreshadowing, they can develop a character. I tend to make sure my reader knows it’s a dream – either by adding obviously surreal elements or by saying straight out “she knew it was a dream …” or “that dream always haunted her” or “the memory of the dream stayed with her when she woke” at the start of the dream sequence. This isn’t necessary if the dream is short enough.
  2. Dream entering as a superpower or ability – When a character can mentally enter the dreams of another through psychic abilities or magic. Again, this can be useful for sharing memories or backstory, both with the reader and between characters. It can be used to show how a character could tamper with someone’s dreams and the effects of that. Or, the dream world could be a physical realm with its own rules of engagement and physical risks (like dying here means you die out there sort of thing). This makes it less of a cop-out and more of a portal fantasy. Again, make sure the reader knows when they are in a dream and when they are in the real world.
  3. Replace the dream with a book, a magic realm, or a computer simulation – like The Matrix or The Neverending Story. In Altered Carbon, they had digital spaces too. Again, make sure the reader is aware of the setting, and changes in the setting. One of the reasons that The Matrix worked was because what Neo thought was reality was the simulation and he was woken up early in the movie as part of the plot of the movie – not as an escape from the plot of the movie. You also have characters moving willingly between reality and simulation.

The biggest thing to remember is that readers want REAL STAKES. If you cheat them out of the ending, then the stakes, the risks, the dangers, the growth of the characters, it all means nothing. If you are going to use a dream world, or some variation of it, the stakes have to remain real, the risks have to be real. Don’t cheat your story by weakening the impact of your climactic scene.

Other points to remember: own your story and your writing choices, don’t flinch away from difficult situations or choices; clarity is key, make sure the reader knows at plot appropriate times when characters are dreaming and when they aren’t; waking up isn’t a fix for plot holes or bad writing, do the work, fix your story, find a way to get the characters out.