Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mid Week Update and Sneak Cover Peek

Just a quick update- I've got a book launch coming up, along with another Free ParTay promotion this month, so there's a lot on my mind. Plus it's going to be my birthday! On the Ides of March, which is where this blog got its name. I'll have to do something to celebrate, maybe!

1. Word count: I hit 3,700ish yesterday, and got one whole chapter written on my serial, Daughter of Glass, over at CQ. I am really happy with the progress I've made and where the story fits in Whitfield mythology. I imagine I just have 4-6 more chapters to go before it gets wrapped up! I'll be sad to see it go because I've really enjoyed writing a novel (or in this case, maybe a novella), in serialized form. I am very inclined to try it again- something abut the weekly deadlines, and the way you have to make sure it plugs into the overall plot, is fantastic discipline for me. The word count makes me happy, too, especially since I have decided to officially revise my expectations down from 6,000 to 4,000 words per week.

2. I spent today doing a good bit of character sketching. I don't mean actual artistic sketches, but rather those useful little character outline tools that Kait Noaln has available on her site. I'm sure they're available elsewhere, but I've gotten spoiled being able to pop over to Kait's and take advantage of all her meticulously gathered resources. It's like a writer's library over there. At any rate, one of my goals was to try and utilize more formal planning tools, and character sheets are both fun and useful. I'm sure I'll do more of them, and maybe even venture into the exciting world of plot outlines and more!

3. My second book in the Chronicles of Nowhere series, Shadowed Ground, is being converted to EPUB as we speak, so it should be out soon soon soon. I'm planning a grander unveiling at a later date, but here's a sneak peek at the cover, which I adore. If anyone is interested in an ARC please let me know and I'll be happy to oblige. The full profile should be going up on Goodreads today or tomorrow. It is very exciting to think that I'll have four publications out there, and by April, that number will grow to six! That's when the third Chronicles of Nowhere book will be available, The Forgotten Fire, and Daughter of Glass will be published in its entirety on Amazon. And then, o anxious Whitfield fans, Blood Redemption is next. I'm even thinking of serializing it so fans won't have to wait- each chapter will be available, for free, every week. But really that's at the thinking stage right now.

Hope everyone is having a good week so far, and that everyone's having an easy time meeting goals. And if not, the week is only half over, so there's still time!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday Update: Vicki and the Existential Crisis

I'm back, after an especially, for me, looong internet break.  The reasons for it are difficult to articulate, which is odd for me as a writer. I mean, it's our job to articulate things. But all I can really say is that I've been in the midst of an existential crisis. I suppose it's still not resolved. I suspect it's the kind of thing that doesn't get resolved; only come to terms with at best, until it comes to take up space in the living room and eventually gets offered a beer. (Or a nice juice spritzer. Shocking Vicki secret #1: I don't drink. At all. The existential crisis, henceforth to be known as the EC, would probably be more easily dispatched if I did. I could just get boozy with it and we'd soon be good friends. But alas, that path is not for me.)

I'm built kinda backwards- I don't always take good news well. Or opportunities. Or the realization that by the grace of whatever capricious spirirt watches over me, I've managed to cobble together a life as a writer. Instead I kinda roll my eyes at the aforementioned capricious spirit and wait for him/her to yank it all away, or raise the stakes, or leave me hanging by my fingernails. (Which I have only recently bullied into something resembling decent shape.)

So I guess I'm saying the shock of having over 24,000 downloads of both Gifts books in one month was kinda  overwhelming. (Oh, before I forget: Welcome, new readers! I usually make more sense than this during blog posts, but I'm out of practice a bit. And having an EC.) Yes, many, but by no means all, were free downloads. I actually hit #40 overall free in the kindle store and stayed there for what, two days? Three? I dunno. But no matter how you slice it, that was a whole lotta downloadin'. (And to answer writerly questions, yes it did translate into sales.)

Stupid me used this as an opportunity to spiral into a long internal dissection of how I should settle into a nice predictable life in baking or retail or an office somewhere.

Safety, whispered the EC. Stability. Stop it with this cobbled-together Bohemian nonsense you've been trying on like impulse spritzes of perfume in the department store.

My answer, after this long internet break and totally insane update, has been, "Meh." No, EC, not today. As much as I wish I could exclaim that YES! I just love life on the sweet writerly edge, that would be a lie. I am not, in fact, comfortable here. But I'm still here, hanging on with my barely presentable fingernails. And here I will stay, because the writerly edge isn't something everyone is cursed or privileged enough to walk everyday. I'm still here because, no matter what, I'm making word count. I wrote 4,300 words this past week. I'm here because this week, at least, I'm able to see myself in my fiction. I have a second book coming out with a real publisher, and I belong to two vibrant writing communities that I would miss terribly and who force me to do things like update on my progress when really, I'd much rather hang out with EC.

But not today. It's update day, and I had some success to report, buried in there stream-of-consciousness style. A little excavation will reveal an update of sorts, and if you missed it in the avalanche of existential ponderings, oh well. There's always next week. Thanks for reading anyway! It's good to be back.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Update: Daughter of Glass

It's Friday again, and with the advent of the weekend comes yet another installment of my weekly serial, Daughter of Glass, over at Curiosity Quills. It was shocking to realize that this is the sixth installment. I'm having a lot more fun with this than I thought I would, and I can also say it's a lot harder than I thought. I certainly feel like I'm growing as a writer- like I'm engaged in the writerly equivalent of training for a marathon. I mean, writing a complete book is one thing, but meeting stringent weekly deadlines seemed like it would be a struggle. It was, at first. A serial is just structured differently than a regular book, and you have to get that word count out come hell or high water. Remembering to approach it as a more rigorously constructed book made sense to me- I had to remember to plug it back into my wider Whitfield universe as well, since that's a world that already exists in two other books.
So we arrive at Chapter Six, where my possibly mentally disturbed but hopefully nonetheless charming Empath grows closer to the Boy Who Makes Her Feel. This is really a Noah chapter, and it was a lot of fun to write:  Check it out if you have a minute, because best of all, its free!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Guest Post: Michael Panush on Race and Westerns

Horses and Different Colors: Race in Recent TV Westerns
Michael Panush

                I’m a man who enjoys his Westerns. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is one of my favorite movies. Deadwood is among my favorite TV shows. Jonah Hex (despite the movie) is my favorite DC Comics character. I love reading Louis L’Amour or Elmore Leonard, listening to John Wayne’s drawl and Clint Eastwood’s rasp and deciding which version of True Grit I like best.  My first self-published novel, Clark Reeper Tales, is a Western and so is The Bloody Ballads of El Mosaico, one of the upcoming series that will be published by Curiosity Quills (though those have considerably more zombies, magic and monsters than a normal Western). And because I like Westerns so much, I often end up thinking of matters related to race.
                It may seem a little farfetched to imagine an issue as big as race being decided amidst a genre known for high noon gunfights, stage coach hold-ups and buxom saloon dancers. But you’ll have to remember that Westerns – except for modern ones or when they’re set in space -- are set in a specific time and place that was extremely racially charged. It was during this post-Civil War period that the notion of America as a ‘melting pot’ really became true. Immigrants from Europe poured into the United States. So did immigrants from Asia. Mexicans, many of whom still had the experience of the Mexican War fresh in their minds, were a major force, as were the freed slaves who headed west. There were the Indians too, with their own complex and tragic section of American history. People of all these races were colliding, interacting and trying to survive in the Wild West and their experiences make up the modern America. That’s one of the reasons why I love Westerns – it forces Americans to look at the mirror at their own past and see just how brutal and horrifying it is.
                Not all Westerns deal with these issues and a lot of the Classic Westerns do so in blatantly offense and dated ways. But the modern Western show Hell on Wheels, which recently finished its first season on AMC, tackled them head on. The results, especially compared to HBO’s brilliant Deadwood, were interesting to say the least.
                Hell on Wheels is set in 1865 and tells the story of the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. The show received mixed, but generally favorable reviews and I found a lot to like in Hell on Wheels myself. It did receive some, perhaps unfair, comparisons to HBO’s Deadwood. Hell on Wheels lacks the sophisticated almost Shakespearean dialogue of Deadwood (and the copious profanity that comes with HBO), but it does its best to carve out its own niche, with a plot that’s heavier on action than intrigue. Another frequent criticism leveled at Hell on Wheels was about its treatment of race. Initially, I agreed.
                A major character in Hell on Wheels is the freed slave, Elam Ferguson. Played by Common with a great brooding intensity and a purposeful anger, Elam is a kind of leader amongst the Black railroad worker. Critics pointed out that Elam often attempts to change things and clashes with the Whites in the camp – demonstrating very modern ideas about race. Elam’s actions bring questions of prejudice and racism explosively to the forefront, when the setting demands that they be kept simmering in the background. At first, I agreed with these critics that Elam’s outlook was anachronistic. I simply looked back to how Deadwood handled it and saw the difference.
                In Deadwood, the shocking amounts of racism and prejudice are a fact of life. The Black characters, ranging from the stoic fellow who runs the livery and his dandy friend to George Hearst’s cook, understand the unfair way the world regards them and try to work with it, rather than change it. Other characters, like the Chinese mob boss and the Jewish shopkeeper, ignore racism when it comes up and try to get around it, even if other characters won’t let them. Race, by itself, isn’t often a point of contention. It’s shocking, depressing and disheartening for modern audiences, but Deadwood’s ethnic relations have a ring of veracity to them because for the vast majority of our nation’s history, that’s how things were. They were of course the courageous few who battled prejudice and it’s thanks to them that matters changed, but for most minorities in America, that kind of evil was just a cruel fact of life. It seemed that Hell on Wheels forgot that.
                But later episodes convinced me that I was mistaken. The series gained its footing and its own feel, separate from Deadwood. And bits of Elam’s past were revealed. It was explained that he was mixed race, the illegitimate son of a plantation owner and a slave. Being of mixed racial descent, particularly in Elam’s case, has its own endless series of connotations and issues, especially in such a racially charged time period as the Old West. Another episode showed a flashback to his childhood, where it was revealed that his owner taught him to read at a young age, and had him recite verses from the Bible as a kind of joke. That experience – not a modern outlook – shaped and molded Elam’s character into the man he is during the time of the show.
                Hell on Wheels probably isn’t as exceptional as Deadwood, but I still enjoyed it and think it’s defiantly a good Western show.  It tackles the problems of the time period, regarding women, Indians, Irish and Blacks, in a way that shows the writers aren’t afraid of dealing with those bigger social issues in America’s history. And it’s got gunfights, revolvers, robber barons, saloon girls and all the other hallmarks that make a Western great. It might not be up there in the Western Pantheon with some of my other favorites, but it’s got some great characters, like Elam, that I can’t wait to follow in the second season. I urge everyone who likes cowboys, horses and some frank discussion on a violent, dark and fascinating part of America’s past to check it out.    

Monday, February 13, 2012

Breaking Internet Silence

I realized I haven't posted to my blog in about 80 bazillion years.  The whole "break from the internet" thing is going well in a sense- lots of cobwebs cleared (or clearing), some of that "to do" stuff knocked out, and just some general restructuring underway. All of this is good, but then I realized I missed my blog. I caught myself doing internet drive-by's and berating myself over lack of fresh, exciting content.
Well, I can't promise fresh, exciting content right now because I'm feeling more contemplative than exciting, and I wouldn't want to unload all my cobwebby creativity on anyone right now. But I do deplore the lack of content. And so, I interrupt my internet silence to bring you a few of the things on my bookshelf. I've either just read them, or are about to. ("Just" being a relative term meaning anytime in the past two weeks.)

This book was billed as "YA Romance," but since the main character is 21, and the male lead in his 30s, I would seriously reconsider the labeling. It was, however, some really good historical sweet romance, which is usually completely out of my wheelhouse, people. However, I liked this little volume quite a lot. Taking place right at the end of the Civil War, it is the love story between a Confederate soldier and the young woman who helps shelter and care for him.

I loved loved this short novel by Cyn Balog. I loved reading about a heroine who wasn't a size six, and who managed to pull off both a decent relationship AND a healthy dose of self-respect by the end of the novel. Plus I just have this thing for books set in bakeries. I don't know why. And now I want a fresh jelly doughnut. Drat you, Cyn Balog!

The new Beth Revis was a pleasant surprise- normally I am not a fan of the middle books of trilogies, but I think this one may actually outdo its predecessor. The sci fi setting was a nice switch, and entirely believable. It ended on something of a cliffhanger, yet managed to tie up most loose ends before doing so. Plus I just love the cover. This is one of my favorite covers of the year so far.

I have not actually had the pleasure of finishing this yet, but I've heard enough rave reviews that I can't wait to get there. Plus who doesn't love Maggie Stiefvater? (If you don't, just forget I asked, 'kay?)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

My Books Go Free

As part of the IBC's Free ParTay event, two of my books, Gifts of the Blood and Darkness in the Blood, are free over the next few days. If you haven't gotten a chance to read them yet, go ahead and snag yourself a copy or four! there are also a whole lot of other free books in the event, which you can check out here.
Enjoy some character badges and the book covers!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Update: The Hot Tub Must Wait

You know, I really don't want to write this post.
Wednesdays are hell.
Meetings, writing, editing, editing, graphic design, more meetings, a newsletter, a tweet bank, and a sneaky Sexy New Idea. And that's just my writing life. Somewhere in there, I do have an actual life.
My spouse is, in fact, waiting beside the hot tub for me to finish this post.
So what the hell am I doing here???
I believe in ROW80. (This is the point where my daughter would roll her eyes.) I need the accountability and the fellowship. I need to be able to set goals and know I'm on track, or not, as the case may be. That means being accountable when I could be doing something else.
(Stares longingly at hot tub.)
Ok, so to get down to it:
1. Word count: I wrote 2, 950 words on Monday and edited them into 3,100 useable words today! This was on my newest installment of Daughter of Glass, so it's good to have that done. DoG goes up every Friday, so I have been hoping to get that out of the way early in the week and spend the rest writing on the third Chronicles of Nowhere book. Ideally, I'll get another 4,000 words, or two chapters, out by then, but if it works out to be one chapter of CoN3, oh well. That's good, esp. considering:
2. Editing: I'm working on my own stuff and books for others, all at the same time. I must finish the edits on CoN2, which is (blessed be!) completely finished and beta'd up. It's even been through the editor's wringer because one cannot edit oneself. Unless one is very brave or kinda broke, like I was when I wrote my first book. :) But I have to sit down and finish a very long book for someone else, and that has to happen this week. Also have to edit a shorter piece tomorrow morning. Such is life in the shadow of Mt. Editing.
3. Blogging: Yes! I'm doing it! I have one more to get in between now and Sunday to make goal. I have not blog hopped to my peeps, though. I *have* read blogs, but I skipped merrily on by without commenting, which sucked of me. I will make it up somehow! By spreading the comment luv forevermore? Yeah, something like that. Sorry, everyone!
4. Tomorrow starts my official Free Par-Tay with the IBC, where both my Angel's Edge books will be totally free on Amazon!!! This will last for three whole days, so if you've never read my books and are curious, snag yourself a copy or four. There are a whole bunch of free books with Free ParTay, which you can read all about tomorrow right here on my blog. For now, I'll just say free is good! The best, in fact. I would dare say better than hot tubs, because free books last longer than a dip under the stars. (Yes, hon, I'm coming, I swear.) For now, I'll just leave you with the badges I designed for the event, and also Bestseller for a Day (more free books), which has to do with that graphic design work I mentioned earlier.
Um, have I been accountable enough yet? Yes? No?
Oh well, I'm goin' hottubbin' anyway.
Have a great rest of the week!!!! -V

I made this!

And this!