‘Til the Cockiest Asscrack of Dawn

A free short story, inspired by my current MFA course for the speculative fiction module.

Just a little forward: This was a LOT of fun to write for my MFA class. It’s undergoing workshop right now so I may edit it later, depending upon the feedback I get in my class. And no, I have no idea if I’m going to continue it.


‘Til the Cockiest Asscrack of Dawn

Werechickens are always at the end of the pecking order.

Cocks get the worst of it in every way possible.

The waning moon is…Meh. You kind of forget who you are after you deal with 206 bones reducing down to the size of a Jersey giant. The full moon is the worst—it makes it impossible to think beyond digging up garden roots or snuggling and walking under your very normal mother’s feet when she comes out early to feed the flock. (She still hasn’t gotten used to the situation since I started shifting a year and a half ago—I, unfortunately, inherited the werechicken gene from my father.)

If your wings aren’t clipped, it makes things tougher. You’ll gain this inherent, unending urge to fly over the fence to cross the road to the next farm over where the pretty hens—uh…girl—lives.

And you’ll never quite get that landing since your plume of feathers above your comb keep getting into your eyes (I think I have some Polish ancestry, although it hasn’t ever been confirmed).

But all of that is a hell of a lot better than getting your ass kicked by Hawk, the Easter Egger with arrogance issues, or dealing with the vegetarian farmer across the road who shoots first and asks questions later. The dog’s food bowl… or the dead dish. I wouldn’t even wish that on Hawk…

I haven’t had a haircut in six months, and I won’t let Mom cut it because I can fly farther with my wings. It’s just a glide, really, with pointless flapping, but I manage to get around.

If I’m going being honest here, I’m a beautiful cock. I won’t get a haircut because I don’t want to shift and come out looking like an oversized Silkie. I don’t know how those guys do it.

But the waxing moon—that’s when I start to feel human again after being stuck two days as a chicken. There’s a reason I cross the road (and leave all your “chicken crossing the road” jokes to yourself).

Her name is Cami Gilly. She’s the most beautiful girl in school. I’ve been in love with her since freshman year, but I’ve never had the guts to talk to her. I didn’t know how she would react if we got into an actual relationship and she found out about my…condition.

I hear the asshole raccoon overhead.

He tries to eat me every time I shift, and tonight is no different.

He flies from the trees with all four legs spread out, hissing and spitting and trying to grab my wings. If he pins me, I’ll be dead, and I’ll never be able to check on Cami. But I was smart—I haven’t cut my toenails in over a month. My back talons are long and sharp, and I manage to hook one in the raccoon’s eye. He hisses and makes weird raccoon noises, but he doesn’t stop. He is determined to kill me. I manage to get in one, sharp peck to his ass and then kick at him again. This time, my foot, and all sharp claws, manage to hook his face, and I peck him again. The whole time I’m clucking loudly, but I go at him with the force of a rooster protecting his hens, and he finally lets out a defeated cry before he limps his ass away from me.

Freaked out, trying not to let the chicken take over, I take refuge on top of Mr. Gilley’s chicken coop, right outside of Cami’s bedroom, breathing hard. He tried to claw the top of my shoulders, but as I preen myself, I don’t find any terrible damage. I forced meal worms down before I made the decision to jump the fence. They’re awful, but at least I get fast healing powers from them. I found this out completely by accident when I got into a conversation with another werechicken on Facebook.

Crap.

This dawn is just getting worse.

Cami is dating Heath Nottingham, one of the cockiest Bourbonsville High quarterbacks. I’m not completely certain, but I think he makes her depressed. I hear her television as I hop onto the ledge of the fence near her bedroom. Chicken hearing isn’t the best, but I hear soft arguing.

I recently found out Heath is a vampire.

I hate vampires. He’s not of the prissy variety, either. He’s old. Like Nosferatu-weird-teeth-old. I’ve seen his vampire face and he looks worse than one of those yellow-eyed renditions of the creature from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, only his eyes turn red. I got on Google and started doing research on this guy. It wasn’t easy. Vampires don’t like were-animals, and they laugh at werechickens. We’re at the bottom of the pecking order in every way possible. This guy preys on young girls, and he lives life over and over again as a teenager. I think he was turned when he was seventeen or something.

But it’s the scream—the heart-wrenching scream—that has me damn near banging my head against the Cami’s bedroom window. I peck and peck, but I can’t get inside. Heath hovers over Cami, his hand fisted in her blonde hair, fangs sharp and glinting against the light of the television. Cami struggles and tries to fight back, but Heath pins her like she’s made of feathers.

It’s by chance that I find the weak spot in the window screen.

I fly at Heath’s head, crowing, bucking, talons out. I’m Hawk—no one messes with my hen—er—girl. I scratch and peck and drive Heath into the rising dawn light.

He wails from the light, turns into a bat, and flies outside.

It is the single most awesome win for werechickens everywhere.

“…Kenny?”

I look down.

Crap.

I’m human again.

A naked human…

With, uh, standing issues.

And a freezing ass.

“Uh… hi, Cami.”

“You—how—you’re a chicken?”

Kindle Worlds, Pesky Muses, & Other Thoughts

Soon, I will go from having seven published books to only six. I’ll explain, but first I need to give you a little backstory. We all love the backstory, right? I promise—I won’t tell too much.

Back in 2013, my Vampire Diaries fanfiction, All This Time, was plagiarized from FanFiction.net onto Wattpad.

What? But, how can fan fiction be plagiarized? I didn’t know you even wrote that stuff! Isn’t that for amateurs????

I started writing fanfiction when I was fourteen years old for Final Fantasy VII. In fact, one of the longest unpublished stories I ever wrote was a mash-up of FFVII, FFVIII, FFXI, and FFX with a dash of The Bouncer. Didn’t know I was a video game nerd, did you? I’m laughing at my teenage self for this—and my high school friend, Kelli, that wrote it with me. We had over 1000 pages of fanfiction that we wrote in high school from the time we were freshmen to the time we were…I want to say juniors. Fanfiction was the platform I learned to write in, and it is where I got over my own stigma against myself since I have dyslexia. I read a lot before I started reading, but it was in high school that I REALLY knew I wanted to be a writer.

Fast forward to now, fifteen years later and when I have no idea where that Main Story is, and I am now an author of six new adult romance novels. Cheap Guitars was a Vampire Diaries All Human/Alternate reality fanfiction until I realized I had written an actual romance. E.L. James—and while I have the utmost professional respect for her, I probably won’t read any more of her erotica—started off writing Fifty Shades as Twilight fanfiction. So, I figured why not? But this was after something happened with All This Time.

With all of that being said, yes. Fanfiction can be stolen, especially when Taaroko and I spend so much time doing research in 1986 and the Civil War era. We have enough research done that I could probably pull off a historical romance, and do it well. My original co-writer of All This Time is also someone I like to call Super Queen Internet Googler, and that is how she found out the story was stolen. Sorry. I kind of went on a tangent. I think I am slightly upset, but I’ll explain why in a moment.

But long story short—I was pissed. Livid, even. A teenager saw fit to steal our perfectly(ish) researched TVD fanfic and called it her own. After getting Wattpad to remove the story, Michelle Hazen informed me of the Kindle Worlds program on Amazon. I could legally publish my Vampire Diaries fanfiction, where it would be safe, and I would earn a little money while I was at it.

I jumped on that opportunity after my co-writer agreed.

And now the Kindle Worlds program is ending, and my rights to the story will revert back to me.

Is it shocking? Yes. Upsetting? A little. Disappointing? I feel for the other writers who loved being able to publish their fanfiction on Amazon. But… this is also good. I’m putting the story back under its original state on the website when it comes off Amazon. It doesn’t really bother me that I won’t be earning royalties anymore. I learned a lot from the process and gained the courage I needed to start writing romance fiction. Cheap Guitars is a vastly different story now that I have released the Author’s Extended Edition. All This Time taught me quite a bit about book formatting. I cried when my first royalties came in, but I cried harder after Cheap Guitars made its first sale.

So, thanks, Michelle and Katie. It sucks our stories are coming down, but it was a good learning experience, and now we can move forward in our careers. (AKA I can further ground myself as a new adult romance writer, although a time travel romance and vampire fiction aren’t out of the picture.)

Also—I feel I need to address something.

To the girl who plagiarized the story before I decided to put it on Kindle Worlds:

I am not petty.

In fact, I like to think of myself as a (mostly) classy lady (except when my Daddy’s trucker mouth comes out of mine).

I belong to an incredible network of writers who support each other. I am not angry at you anymore, because you are one of the reasons I participated in the Kindle Worlds program. I’m also kind of flattered now because you thought the story was that good, that you had to have it. Taaroko tried to point it out to me when it happened, but I was twenty-five, and too much of a stubborn ass to listen. The #cockygate and #byefaleena trademark fiasco that had so many great romance writers—and writers in other genres—band together to fight the trademark happened to inspire me.

Sweetie, if you have questions about starting an ORIGINAL story, you can come to me. That’s in the off chance that you ever happen across this blog. I want to put some positive energy out to the universe, so I will gladly give you writing advice if you need it. You may email me at mara_a_miller@hotmail.com. I might not share my ideas with you, but I will try to help you if you want to write.

The same goes for anyone who is struggling with writing right now.

With that being said, I feel confident in my ability to give the Cheap series the final book it deserves. I don’t want to say much, but…Man, it’s going to be awesome. That’s all I can say. I’m fucking excited.

About that, my romance thesis, and two other projects.

Can I give someone else my muse?

She just might kill me.

(I’m going to write).

Plotting Relapse

Recently, I’ve become a planner girl. I’m not joking about this either—not only have I turned two friends onto the Erin Condren website (you can go here if you want to check it out! She just came out with an eighteen month planner, and get a $10 dollars off if you use my link.) because the planners are fantastic, but I spent an exorbitant amount of money on three planners from the website. They hold up well, the paper does well with my fountain pen ink, and they’re customizable.

And yes, I use every single one.

As horrible as it may sound, I have used most of my loans from excess funds with SNHU to purchase/fees my new EC obsession. My Lifeplanners have two separate purposes—one of them is for every day life stuff so I can keep track of important dates, like when Hank needs his Heartguard or to keep track of my boyfriend’s work schedule, or my book-related goals. The second is my academic planner, where I have the classes my advisor has lined up, so I can keep track of my assignments, my grades, and my progress on my thesis. The “academic” Lifeplanner is useful especially to keep track of assignments for my final project, which is usually a combination of all “milestones” in my classes. Yes, I realize EC has actual academic planners, but I usually only take one class and figured it would be a waste.

And my Monthly Deluxe Planner… this thing is amazing. I bought the oversized one with 80 pages so I would have a more detailed place to make notes. I find I’m more likely to make a blog post, too (I wrote the first draft of this in the planner).

And it’s that very reason that I’m annoyed with myself. I can’t seem to make myself plot out my WIP for anything. I created a beat sheet but I’ve already gone off task with it before I can even finish the first chapter. I’m not too worried about it yet—I’m trying to be easy on myself. This story will be my first stand-alone. This WIP will not turn into a series and I’m sticking to it since I can be stubborn. I’m giving the Cheap series a break because I don’t want it to spawn seven more stories when I’m trying to end it. The series WILL end with Kat and Charlie. I’m not working on it since my ideas tend to get too big before I have to rein it all in, and end up getting frustrated. Really, it’s that I’m struggling ever-so-slightly with controlling my creativity, and that’s causing a writer’s block.

Bah.

But I’m reading Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, so maybe that will help me finally beat my plot into submission (no pun intended!). I’m also going to do something o rarely do—and that is to create character sheets for everyone in my WIP. I had a lot of work done on it, but that was when I thought I was going to make it the first in a rocker romance series. The characters don’t fit that mold, and never have. I also think I have a copy of Plot Your Work somewhere, but that means digging around in my unpacked things, and it could be either at my Mom’s house or my boyfriend’s mother’s house. Things tend to travel with me and get left occasionally…oops.

And oh—yeah.

I moved in with my boyfriend. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that yet!

I partly attribute my block to moving and the general craziness of not having an office space to write in, but I can’t blame all of that on it.

This block is only temporary. I keep telling myself that because I know it is. A stand-alone is a different beast than a series, so I just need to be a bit more strategic in how I’m writing it.

I do have a question for those of you reading—do you have anything you do when you outline? Certain character sheets that work best? Scene/chapter outlining methods? I think I’m going to try Kim Chance’s character sheet she just released the other day. But anyway, share with me! And if I don’t use it, maybe it will help someone else who is struggling like I am.

The hilarious part about this is that I’ve been plotting my MFA thesis, and that is going wonderfully. Those methods just aren’t working for my other WIP.

For Uncle Mark

I have decided I’m a strange writer. Either that or I’m on the verge of breaking a terrible writers block—well, technically, I have, but more on that in a little bit. Either way, April is upon us once more, and it isn’t the prospect of warmer weather that excites me. Or that I can now walk Hank in flip flops without layers and layers of clothing (although the Kentucky weather has been acting strange again)…or even that I now have an apartment with my boyfriend that is ours.

No, I’m freaking excited about Camp NaNoWriMo. I went through a bad writing stump in January, wrote bits and pieces in February, and nothing again in March (for the most part—nothing substantial, anyway). Granted, I did have a lot going on. I moved twice (yes, twice), have had limited internet access, and my MFA class has kept me busy but petrified because we have to use videos to submit our work. I also was focused on editing a novel for a new author. So, I feel like those were legitimate reasons for not beating myself up for being lazy whenever I started getting angry over not writing. I forgave myself; not an easy task.

With that said, I’m officially working on a stand-alone novel, Ivy Wild. I love my series writing, but I’m starting to wonder I can’t write a stand-alone, so I need this challenge to prove to myself that I can tie everything up nicely.

I’m also pantsing.

I know! I was doing so well with the plotting. Cheap Tricks turned out to be fantastic because I plotted it and used a beat sheet. But, I need a change of pace. I want to write more and publish faster. I write faster when I pants. Granted, I may need to edit more later, but I’ll still write quickly.

Usually, I don’t do this…but pray for me, y’all. I’ve not pantsed in a while. I wrote 2,633 words yesterday, and we’ll see how it goes today. I’m also writing longhand. I’m dying to get this story written since it’s been in my head for so long. It’s special, since I’m basing it in Philadelphia and plan on dedicating it to my Uncle Mark, who passed away in 2016. I’ve been all kinds of emotional—but it’s good to let yourself get emotional when you write.

All right! I’m pumped to go write now. Good luck to anyone else who is participating this month!

Writing Truth Bombs

First, I have to give a warning. I’m writing this at 1 am, I feel like complete crap, and my iPhone 7’s autocorrect is a ducking wrench sucker. (I’m tired, but not tired? And just don’t care enough to fix it if it semi makes sense.)

“Oh, but Writer’s Block doesn’t exist!”

“Sit down and write fifteen minutes a day! You’ll get back in the groove!”

“Quit complaining, put your ass in the chair, and write the f*^%ing book!”

Yeah, well, you don’t see it, but I’m holding up both middle fingers to all the ridiculous positivity right now.

I am not used to this. The whole Block thing. I have also sniffles and have blown my nose until my eyes felt like they would pop out of their sockets today, so I get to express how much I feel like the rotten side of ass.

But…

I’m generally a positive person.

Damn.

I wanted to write something for some writers who are going through the same thing. The writers who are ballsy enough to publish on their own. The writers who bust their asses because they had this crazy notion they can get by as their own boss. Because, honey, I’ve written 7 books, and I’m still facing a dreaded Block, the in-between of books where I’m not sure what the hell I’m writing next.

First, I’m writing for myself. Actually, that’s my first point…

1.) If you’re stuck, write for yourself.

Forget reader expectation and that giant series you’re working on that needs to be put right now. If you start to write for yourself, whether it be a total brain dump about all your worries or stress in a journal or writing a book review, do something for yourself. I forget to do this quite a bit.

2.) Show binges are amazing.

True Blood. Sookie and her many lovers–I didn’t realize I needed to rewatch the show until the cold I have currently picked up laid me in bed all day and I couldn’t think of nothing else to do but throw the show on so I could listen to it (because ow getting a cold when you’re an adult hurts). I’m not saying YOU have to watch it. True Blood might not be your cup of tea. It could be Grey’s Anatomy, The Office, Doctor Who, Bugs Bunny–what the f*^% ever.

My point here–take time for yourself, because when you’re a writer and you’re self publishing, you can get too focused on what you need to write and how you need to write it to remember to be a freaking human.

I also never got around to watching season 7.

3.) Let your mind wander.

I’m bitching hardcore about not being able to write, but that doesn’t mean my brain isn’t still grabbing a hold of ideas for future books. I’m still writing–sort of. The only other time I went through one of these, I wound up with stacks of material that later ended up in Cheap Tricks. I’ve been in my bullet journal constantly between editing and attempting to decide on my next project (right now I want to write my damn trilogy). Honestly? I don’t have access to all of my writing files at the moment because my iMac is out of commission and so I know this will pass once I have access to my main writing folder again…

4.) Back up your shit.

I’m sure you’ve hear this before… but back up your files. Back them up on iCloud, one note, hard drives, Drop Box–whatever you have access to. This isn’t really on the same line of thought I had a second ago but I thought I’d throw it in there because it is contributing to my damn Block.

5.) It’s okay to flip flop on writing projects.

This is something I personally struggle with–I don’t know which f*^%ing book I want to write next. No joke–I’ve got three novels and a novella on the list of books I’m planning on tackling soon. I never have an issue finding ideas for my next book. I sat on the one I had for my last novel for two years before I sat down and actually wrote it. I threw away ideas, combined them, and redesigned Sophie a million times until I was happy with her. I’m sort of at that point with my next character, but I’m also sitting here thinking, “Dear God, Mara. This idea is crazy. You’re crazy for paying for covers you aren’t even going to use. Stop looking at pre-mades on Kellie’s Facebook group. People are gonna hate this entire idea and you’re gonna write trash and then trash will be connected to Kellie’s name and she’ll never sell you another cover again!”

Sound familiar for your own writing project?

I think I finally know why I’m doing this–the flipping back and forth thing. I want to end one series, but I really need a break from it at the same time. I’m dipping out of my New Adult genre a little because the MFC (main female character) has experienced life more than my others from previous books. She’s not naïve like Bri, but she’s not comfortable with herself like Sophie. I’m also not setting this book in any place I’m comfortable with–I’m doing a lot of research. Writing a new trilogy takes time and I need to freakin’ forgive myself. In the mean time, I am trying to get things out on a Word doc or paper, but I don’t want to worry about many files to move over when I have my iMac back (okay, I’m embarrassed, but that’s okay. It’s in pawn. I had to pawn my computer, my reasons are personal, and I’m getting it out March 5th. My little brother saved my ass by loaning me his MacBook Pro.) I also bought covers that have the same model on it, and so it’s going to be all about her, and I’m kicking my ass for not thinking about it more (but OMG are they gorgeous).

I feel like my train of thought was all over there…but whatever. Blame it on the cold.

6.) Don’t buy covers until you’re halfway in the project.

I feel this is self explanatory. Insert more feeling like an idiot (but OMG THE COVERS I HAVE ROCK). Unless you are ABSOLUTELY sure that book is happening and you’re not trend/trope chasing, don’t buy the cover yet.

That’s all I can think of at the moment. There are more. But I had to write this, not only to get it off my chest, but so maybe I can think more clearly when I sit down to work on Broke Peach later. And yes, that is the title book title. I’ve at least got that and a solid base for the rest of it.

I’m gonna get through this Block. And if you’re having doubts about your own writing, you’ll get through it too. There I go with my positivity crap again–maybe I’ll start feeling better soon.

Damn Procrastination Monkey

I just realized I haven’t posted much on this blog recently unless it was a book tag or something else random. I didn’t even have a reason for it either because I haven’t been writing much since I finished rewriting Cheap Guitars.

I blame it on the Procrastination Monkey. Damn thing. It’s ruined all my plans!

On a more serious note, I honestly haven’t been able to decide which one of my novels I want to sit down and write yet. It’s like my brain is so overloaded with ideas that it can’t process which one needs to be written. But, I do need to narrow it down and start writing my damn books. I’ve got five covers ready for them, after all. But for the life of me, I couldn’t sit down and focus on one thing.

I hope that is a problem other writers face. You just get so many ideas that you can’t help but jot them down, but then that idea turns into an entire first chapter of a book. Then you get flustered with yourself because you can’t start writing the new book because you have to finish writing the other damn book. It turns into a round of stuffing your face with Doritos and hair pulling and–oh, just me? Okay, then.

But, to be honest?

I’ve had that problem since I finished Cheap Tricks. I’m not saying it’s a BAD problem… it’s like the Universe wanted me to take a break.

Well, Universe, I ain’t got the time for that.

I’m thrilled to announce that I think I have finally narrowed down my writing schedule for 2018. No more break needed, Universe.

Recently, I’ve become obsessed with Erin Condren planners. I sat down to REALLY think about how I want my writing year to look and jotted a few notes in the back with my pretty double sided purple pen. I’ve been working on the Cheap series for so long that I started worrying that might be the ONLY thing I ever write, so I will ending the series with a novella and one more novel, Cheaper Sunglasses and Cheap Promises. I’m not ready to say much about those stories yet except that they are happening. I’m also planning a contemporary standalone with a more adult theme and an NA trilogy. After that, a brand new series, and I haven’t decided how many books will be in that yet. I’m finally excited about my writing plans for the year because I managed to get myself organized.

And no, Erin Condren isn’t sponsoring this little post. I don’t have enough followers yet for that. Haha! I just really love her stuff. I’m especially obsessed with the way you can customize everything. I’ve got two notebooks that I had customized for the novels I will be writing this year.

So, with a self-inflicted publishing deadline fast approaching for Cheap Guitars, story plotting to do, and an editing job to complete (note to future Mara: good blog post idea), a new relationship, and the MFA program starting shortly, I’ll have busy schedule. I’m freaking excited about it, too. I’ve been dying to see more books up on my list of published novels in the back of my bullet journal and I say it’s about time I start buckling down to make 2018 my year.

The Phenomenal Booktag

The lovely Jayne Easton tagged me in her YouTube video for this book tag. It was created by Nicole Pierman. I realize I need to start my own channel, but for right now I’m camera shy and have something proper to film with at the moment.

1. Your Favorite: Who is your favorite female lead in bookish history? Catherine from Northanger Abbey. She’s a quirky teenager and would totally write fanfiction if she were a modern-day girl. I’ve thought about playing with a modern retelling of the just for fun, actually!

2. The Scariest: Who is the scariest female character you’ve ever read? (She doesn’t have to be a villain or evil.) Bellatrix Lestrange from Harry Potter. That witch has some serious mental issues, and they were confirmed after I read the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play.

3. Oh-so-sassy: Who’s your favorite sassy female character? Celaena/Aelin from Throne of Glass. She’s this kickass assassin who is really a Fae princess and even though I kind of trudged through Empire of Storms, I still am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt since the last book hasn’t been released yet.

4. The Kindest: Which female character is the kindest female character you’ve come across in literature? I really loved Cath from Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. She was such a sweetheart.

5. Best Character Development: The female lead that’s changed the most throughout a book series? I’m picking from Throne of Glass again, but I have to say Lysandra. She was this really petty character I wanted to throat punch in the novellas from Assassin’s Blade, but she’s now turned into this well-rounded female character who’s favorite animal to turn into include giant snow leopards and sea dragons. How can you NOT love that?

6. Sidekicks ROCK: The best female sidekick? Hermione Granger! How can I NOT mention the female side of the trio from Harry Potter?! Although she and Harry should have ended up married with a bunch of babies, I’m just saying. And this is completely NOT my fanfcition writer side coming out here (I have read so many H/HR fanfics, it’s not funny!!!) She’s brainy, she’s sassy, and there was that one time she knocked Malfoy a good one in the face, and let’s not forget that she loves to read. Hermione is a girl after my own heart and always has been.

7. Your BFF: The one female character you’d love to have as a best friend? Hermione Granger, duh. Or Claire Fraiser from Outlander.  Damn. That’s really hard to pick. I already gave all my reasons for Hermione, but Claire is the type to always have your back until you cross her.

8. Misunderstood: Which female character is the MOST misunderstood? Manon Blackbeak from Throne of Glass. She’s an iron teeth witch and you really want to dislike her when you realize what his happening after she’s first introduced, but then you can’t help but start to like her just a little bit because all of the witches are so damn crazy.

9. Save The Day: Who is the one female character you think would always save the day, no matter what she’s up against? Okay, so there have been Buffy books, so I have to pick Buffy Summers. There is no other way around it. We will not even get into a discussion about how much I love Buffy and her kickass, save the day mentality when it comes to fighting vampires and other demons who are attracted to the Hellmouth in Sunnydale. I’ve heard the comics have gotten really weird, though. (Yeah, I’m cheating/bending the questions a little).

10. I Need More: Finally, which female character do you want to see more of in literature?  I can’t WAIT for Lysandra to have more backstory/story something in Throne of Glass.

I’m tagging Tara, Stephanie Doyel, and J.A. O’Donoghue.

7 Ways to Survive NaNoWriMo

I realized I did the math wrong in figuring out how many years I have participated in National Novel Writing Month. It isn’t my tenth year…it’s my eleventh!!!

So, with that said, I am writing this to try to help those who are participating this year. Out of the ten years of NaNoWriMo that have passed, I lost three of them…but I also won seven times. It’s been a wild ride. I will never publish some of the stories I’ve written because they weren’t that good. I cringe now whenever I look at them. It’s one of those things where you have to sit back and laugh at yourself.

1.) Back Up Your Novel

This should be a given, shouldn’t it? I don’t rely on Microsoft word or it’s “auto-save” anymore. It’s a pain in the ass to click “save” every five minutes (and it lost 5,000 fucking words in the Author’s Extended Edition of Cheap Guitars–sorry, not sorry, for my language there) I don’t live in an area with the most reliable electricity when Kentucky decides it will give us all four seasons in the span of a week (yesterday it was chilly but nice, and today it’s pouring and I saw my breath when I let my dog go potty).

Yes, I do use a Word document, however. I have decided Goddess of Blood and Winter will have a hardback edition so I’m planning to use Ingram Spark for the first time. Formatting it in a document I’ll upload later makes it easier on me. I have a lot to do so that I can make sure it’s published by my personal deadline. It might sound like more work, but this year I’m writing in Scrivener and backing up/formatting in Microsoft Word. Yes, I’m also aware that you can format books through Scrivener but in my experience, it always does something weird, and I’m still learning how to use Scrivener even though I’ve used it on and off for about six years. I trust Microsoft Word when it comes to formatting my work–and hello, drop caps!–but not for saving my work regularly because my dog is a butthead (he has slapped my keyboard and closed documents on me) and I don’t trust Kentucky weather.

2.) Don’t Box Yourself

It’s easy to say that we want to write our novels in order. That seems logical, right? I know I used to think I had to write everything in order when I created my document for Haunted Desperation. And I did write in chronological order in 2007 and a few after that, but it was when I started really working on my New Adult romances that I started breaking my usual writing mode and wrote out of order.

I can’t stand reading HD anymore. But my romances?

Cheap Tricks and Cheap Sunglasses are some of my best work to-date. The rewrite of Cheap Guitars is still going strong, and I’m not exactly writing that in order, either. It’s also my side-project while I work on The Goddess of Blood and Winter this month.

This is what I suggest to NaNoers: write the scene that speaks to you the most that day. Get it out–write those 1667 words. This is where writing with Scrivener comes in handy because you can write the scene and toss it in a “To Be Added Later” (or whatever you want to title it) folder while you work on the scenes that need to be finished in whatever chapter you paused in writing to get that scene out of your head… if that made sense. I’m in a rambling mood right now, I think. Happens every November 1st!

Also, I think one of the perks this month to participating in NaNo is that we can get trials/discounts on Scrivner. I already own the program but I highly recommend it if you have never used it.

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3.) When in Doubt, Longhand

Huh? What do I mean by this?

We’re writing every day–sometimes more than those 1,667 words. My word count–right now–is 5119 words–although I’m not finished with chapter one yet. I’m going to try to keep it to 5,000 a day because that’s usually how long my chapters are. They might get longer since I’m working on fantasy/horror/romance. I’m not sure yet because I haven’t done in in almost ten-fifteen years? I’m not sure anymore.

I have a problem where the computer cursor taunts me, like, Ha! you imposter! You’ll never finish this novel! Give up now!

Writing longhand on paper does something to my brain. It’s like I can think clearer and characters and descriptions pop off the page. I love writing with my fountain pens. My favorite ink is Noodler’s Black Swan in Australian Rose. It’s a purple-pinkish black that is bulletproof, meaning that the paper will disintegrate before the ink will fade completely. Useful when you have an English Mastiff, trust me.

Don’t panic if you get stuck. Pull out a pen or pencil and some paper and see where your thoughts take you. Write the scene that can’t be put in chapter two yet but would work great in another chapter. Type up everything you’ve written at the end of the day since you can’t count it on the website unless they have the document at the end of the month.

Also: free first draft. Take that, evil blinky cursor.

Check out this article I found on writing on paper. It validates everything I just said, but more eloquently.

4.) Don’t Edit

This might seem contradictory when I said, “don’t edit if you’ve written a chapter on paper,” but I don’t count handwritten pages in the no-editing rule. I have dyslexia so I do weird things on paper. For some reason, I also stumble over words like necessary (I had to ask Siri how to spell it) and it doesn’t make sense. I have to watch letters that dyslexics have trouble with when they are trying to read or write but I don’t need a special font either (I’m fond of Palatino or Fanwood when I’m working). I chalk it up to not being so severe because Mom wouldn’t let me give up when I was a kid (she was told I’d never read or write and she told the therapist to fuck off–I think I wrote a post about being dyslexic once). The quicker I catch weird mistakes, the easier it is for my editors later.

I mean this–don’t edit the main manuscript. Whether you’re doing it like I am or simply writing in Word, don’t let yourself edit. Editing is the next stage in the writing process, as well as rewriting, and rewriting some more. I covet those Indies who can bang a book out in a month and hit a best seller’s list on Amazon (I see it all the time) but I’m not, and probably will never, be one of them. I need at least four months (I type close to 120 wpm and have amazing editors and a solid beta team, so when I’m getting a book ready, it goes fast–also, Grammarly, I love you).

I might sound like I’m repeating what it says on the official National Novel Writing Month website, but December is for editing. You might get stuck if you try to write your first draft perfectly and it can make the entire book fall flat from stifled creativity.

5.) Keep Everything You Write

I’m suggesting this mainly to the newbies.

Maybe you start your novel, and then you realize your POV isn’t working. Or maybe you get ten pages into the book and realize maybe that side character you really love would work better as the main character.

I take November as a time to explore who you are as a writer. 50,000 words in a month is a large task for someone who has never written a book before. Back in 2015, I think Cheap Sunglasses was close to 70,000 words when I finished writing it and my editor widdled it down to 60,000 on me before I realized I had a lot of writing fluff in it from writing during the November NaNo and Camp NaNoWriMo (but I also had a lower word count set since they allow us a little wiggle room in April and July). I might feel like a pro at winning this challenge now, but I’m still coming out of my comfort zone and setting my next New Adult rockstar romance to the side so I can reconnect with characters that have been in my head since I was a teenager.

If you don’t think that first person present POV is working, try writing it in the third person. See what it looks like after 2,000 words and then set it aside. In this case, I recommend reading both what you wrote in the first person and the third person the next day (okay–maybe I’m breaking my editing rule again–but I have a valid reason for this).

It’s not easy converting an entire 63,000-word novel from the third person to first (trust me, doing this with the Author’s Extended Edition of Cheap Guitars). Keeping everything will give you wiggle room for Thanksgiving (if you’re in the US) or for a day where you really need a break.

Also, it could give you the start of the next book where the main character that isn’t working will work. That happened to me–Cheap Sunglasses was going to be the fourth book, but I hadn’t figured out how I wanted to write Cheap Tricks yet, so I switched them around, started writing in the first person, and now I’m editing/rewriting Cheap Guitars. 

*headdesk*

Let me amend this, however, by saying that I was still figuring out who I was as a writer when I wrote the first two novels and the novella in the series.

6.) Have Some Sort of Plot

This doesn’t have to mean you have to give every character special colored eyes or a peg leg or a deep dark past.

I’m a plantser, by nature. I like my beat sheets and my bullet journals…but I also tend to go off-course, so to speak. Even if it’s just making notes at the end of the day, I suggest keeping track of what you’re working on. If you don’t, you can get lost really quick, and you’ll end up doing something like this:

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Yes, this is an actual screenshot from Haunted Desperation. I cringe every time I look at it.

7.) But Don’t Forget to Have Fun

I’m reserving a scene for Goddess of Blood and Winter when I’m stuck and need a laugh: my main character, Adara, is going to force Evander into a dress so they can cross the sea to safety.

A scene inspired straight up out of Final Fantasy VII (with obvious differences because I’m not writing fanfiction, here).

I get to pay homage to my favorite game and laugh hysterically at how uncomfortable my character will be when he has to cross-dress, but also have a poignant moment to address how much danger my main character and her lover are in.

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I googled this image and died laughing. I think it’s a perfect depiction of Cloud and Don Corneo.

I wanted to try to make it to ten things to remember during NaNo, but I’m going to end it at seven since this is long. If you enjoyed this post and want another list this month of things to remember, I’ll gladly post another. Or, better, tweet me, and we can talk through your crisis! I’m not opposed to sound-boarding with a writer who needs help!

If you would like to add me on Nano’s website, my name is Angelic_Demon. We can talk there, as well!

Happy writing!!!

 

 

All Hallows Write Tag

Here’s the thing–I’ve been meaning to start a YouTube channel, but I don’t have a proper space set up to make any videos. I spent like three hours trying to record last night, first with my iMac, then with my phone when I couldn’t get the lighting to cooperate. I either started rambling or spoke too fast, and got frustrated when I couldn’t figure out how to edit the videos on my iPhone. I’m going to wait to make them until I get my office set up–something I’m really excited about because I am now officially an MFA Fiction student at Southern New Hampshire University. I deserve a new desk, haha! And an office, which I have been in the process of cleaning for the past few days. It’s taking a long time because it was a storage room, and I will be yanking up old carpet and knocking out the closet.

Also, Hank (my Mastiff) kept slapping me for attention. Can’t have that when I’m trying to make a video, right?

That brings me to this post–The lovely Jayne Easton (her video is here) on Twitter tagged me in the All Hallow’s Write Tag, and I still wanted to do it because I thought it would be a lot of fun! The tag was originally created by Sam Kasse.

#1 – Provide a BRIEF description of your novel before starting.

The Empire of Bilran and island of Callahadrice have been at war for three years because the Queen rejected the King’s son proposal to her daughter. Still, in love with Princess Adara, Prince Artenance seeks the help of the Goddess of Blood and Winter, Xylorcia, wherein she offers him a “gift” in order to help him protect his love from the King’s sudden power play to kill the royal family on the island without considering the consequences.

#2 – Don’t use the same character for more than 3 answers.

It’s Halloween night! What is your protagonist dressed up as?

Adara would dress as Faith the Vampire Slayer. She’s a brunette, snarky with a dark side, and is fed up with kings and princes trying to take over her island.

Who in your cast refuses to dress up and shows up at the Halloween party without a costume?

That would be Art’s second, Evander. Evander is a no-nonsense military man. He would hate costumes because he wouldn’t be able to spot the enemies vying for the death of his Prince.

Which character wears the most outrageous costume, and what would it be?

Xylorcia. She would show up in either a meat dress or worse—covered in the blood of her sacrifices. (I also might be a Lady Gaga fan).

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Character aesthetic designed by Jayne Easton.

On Halloween, werewolves, vampires, and zombies are on the prowl. Which of your characters gets caught in their clutches, and which creature do they subsequently turn into?  

That would be Artenance—he doesn’t know how to stop traveling at night.

Who wins the contest for best costume?

Athalia, Adara’s little sister, would show up dressed like Joan Jett.

Who hands out toothbrushes to the trick and treaters?

That would be my witch, Adradia. (Wow, I really need to change their names! Side Note: I created most of these names when I was a 14/15-year-old kid who had no idea how to write or properly format a novel. I finished that novel when I was 19, and I’m finally revisiting these characters for NaNoWriMo. All names that begin with “A” will be changed before I start the novel on November 1st.) She is a very A-type personality and wouldn’t want anyone to get a cavity.

Which two of your characters decide to pair up and do an angel/devil costume together?

That would be Axel (Adara’s little brother) and Ciya (Evander’s little sister). Ciya is sweet until you propose to her, and Axel is eager to spill blood.

Someone is too scared to even attend the Halloween party. Who is it?

Lord Yatah. He thinks he’s all that and a bunch of grapes until it comes to facing a real live goddess (i.e. Xylorcia).

Who overdoses on Halloween candy and ends up sick?

That would be Axel—he loves his sweets. I might have to give him an obsession with pastries in the novel!

Which character is most likely to place a curse/hex on someone and who would they curse?

Adradia would TOTALLY hex Artenance because she thinks he is a pompous ass who has no right to demand marriage to the princess.

That’s it for the writing tag! I’m tagging Kalesjha Wolf, J.A. O’Donoghue, Dan Beliveau, and Lindsey Frantz. You would all have a lot of fun with this, I think!!! I especially can’t wait to see Lindsey’s answers because her debut novel, The Upworld, released this past summer under Line by Lion Publications and it was a freaking awesome book.