Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Slay Bells Ring’

What happens when your muse hijacks you

I’ll admit it. I’m drawing a blank on what to write this morning. I think part of it is because I’ve been deep in editorial mode the last few days. Another part is I made the mistake of reading an article that continues to equate indie publishing with vanity presses and telling those who would listen that the only way to prove yourself is to make it past the gatekeepers of traditional publishing. So, until I can come up with something that doesn’t involve me getting on my soapbox and screaming profanities — I try not to do that here because it embarrasses Monkey — I’m going to inflict, er, treat you to a snippet from the work that hijacked me last month. It is untitled so far and, as I’ve said before, something of a mash-up of Slay Bells Ring (a romantic suspense) and Skeletons in the Closet(UF/modern fantasy and still unpublished). That’s mainly because it demanded it take place in the same setting as Slay Bells but it has elements of modern fantasy/UF. Oh, and it has a semi-sentient house. There are also character overlaps between the books. And I have no idea how or why this book decided it had to be written, much less by me.

Now, this is the rough draft. There will be changes made, including fixing spellings and punctuation, before the book goes live. Also, the usual cautions apply. This is my work, copyright 2016 by Amanda S. Green.

***

 It’s never easy going home, especially when you left under less than ideal circumstances. But that’s the situation I found myself in. It might never have happened if it weren’t for my daughter, the light of my life. Four months ago, Ali turned five. A month after that I finally admitted she presented challenges I didn’t know how to deal with. Fortunately, at least in some ways, my mother did know how to handle my special little girl. Like it or not, that meant returning home to Mossy Creek, Texas, smack dab in the middle of the buckle of the Bible belt.

And that made life very interesting for the citizens of Mossy Creek where normal was not something you encountered every day.

So I called my mother, scheduled a leave of absence from work and made our plane reservations. There were a few stops and starts and the trip had been delayed twice. But now our bags were packed and Ali and I were about to walk out the front door. That’s when my pocket started vibrating. Well, to be honest, it was the cell phone in my pocket that started vibrating but you know what I mean. For a moment, I considered ignoring the call. I knew from the ringtone it wasn’t my mother or any of the rest of the family. As far as work and most of my friends knew, Ali and I had already left town. Even so, years of conditioning had my hand digging into my jeans pocket before I realized it.

“Mama, we have to go!” Ali tugged at my free hand, pulling me toward the door.

“Hang on, sweetheart.” I glanced at the display, not recognizing the number. “Go make sure you didn’t leave anything you want to take with you. This won’t take long. I promise.” I waited until she raced toward her bedroom before answering the call. “Hello?”

“Moira Quinn O’Donnell?” a man asked.

“Yes.” A hint of concern fluttered in my stomach. He might have been calling to sell me siding or solar panels or the like but I doubted it. Something about his voice not only sounded serious but official. Besides, he had used my full name, something very few knew.

What can I say? When you grow up with the name Moira and your mother insists on the proper Irish pronunciation and you live in Texas, let’s just say it is easier to go by your middle name, especially if that name is easily pronounced.

“Ms. O’Donnell, my name’s Peter Sanderson. I work with Julianne Grissom.”

My brows knitted into a frown. “What can I do for you, Mr. Sanderson?”

“Ms. O’Donnell, I don’t want to worry you but have you spoken with your mother recently.”

That flutter of concern spiked and I swallowed hard. Whenever someone started a statement with “I don’t want to worry you,” it usually meant there was something to be worried about. If that wasn’t enough, Julianna Grissom and I were friends going back to childhood. If trouble wasn’t brewing, the call would have been from Annie Caldwell. Julianna Grissom was her very professional, all attorney persona. I closed my eyes and counted to ten. Then I looked toward the hallway, making sure Ali was still safely in her room. Whatever was going on, I most definitely did not want her involved.

“I spoke with her two days ago. Why?”

“Ma’am, Ms. Grissom asked me to check with you. We don’t know any of the particulars, only that the Sheriff’s Department attempted to do a welfare check on your mother after she failed to meet friends yesterday. While there is no evidence of foul play or, to be perfectly honest, of anything being wrong, they haven’t been able to make entry into the house to be sure.”

I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. I had a pretty good idea why the deputies hadn’t been able to enter the house. Unless I was badly mistaken, they hadn’t even been able to enter the yard. That was just one of the reasons why I had moved to Montana more than ten years ago. In Mossy Creek, when someone said you lived on the wrong side of the tracks, they weren’t talking about your financial status or social standing. Far from it, in fact. Life in Mossy Creek had been different from the day the town was founded. Mundane mixed with supernatural and, well, my mother might not be Serena Duchamp but she had been known to cast more than a spell or two.

Then there was the house. I swear it is more alive than a lot of folks I could name. If it did not want to let someone in, nothing, not even a battering ram, would get the doors open. The only thing keeping me from panicking was the belief the house would not keep help out if my mother needed it. Me, it never hesitated to try to lock me out. But Mama belonged there and it would protect her.

At least I hoped it would.

“What can I do?” I asked.

“Ms. Grissom said you were coming to town today. Is that still your plan?” Sanderson asked.

“It is.” I glanced at my watch. Ali and I were going to have to hurry if we wanted to make our flight. “Assuming no problems with our connecting flight, my daughter and I should be in town by five.”

“With your permission, I will let the sheriff know. Ms. Grissom would like you to stop by the office when you get here. Hopefully, we will know more by then.”

“All right.” She thought for a moment. “Have you checked with either my sister or my brother to see if they have heard from our mother?”

“They are my next calls, ma’am.”

“All right. Tell Ms. Grissom I will give her a head’s up when I reach Dallas.” I did not wait for him to respond. Instead, I ended the call and stuffed the cell phone back into my pocket. I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach but there was nothing I could do about it, at least not until I reached Mossy Creek. But it did necessitate a slight change in what I packed and in my plans not to check a suitcase.

“Ali, you about ready?” I called from my bedroom as I knelt just inside my closet. There, bolted to the floor was a safe. Inside were my service weapon, several other handguns along with my badge, ID and a few other items. Blowing out a breath, I retrieved an HK .45, pancake holster, ammo and my badge and ID. “Ali?” I repeated as I secured everything in a small, hard-sided case and then dropped it inside my bag that now would have to be checked.

“Mama, can I take Ruffles?” She stood in the doorway, a battered teddy bear almost as big as her in her arms.

“No, baby. Not this time. Why don’t you take Freckles instead?” I asked, referring to a smaller but equally beloved teddy bear.

“Okay.” She grinned and raced back to her room.

Five minutes later, we pulled out of the driveway and I did my best to put Sanderson’s call out of my mind. This was Ali’s first plane ride and I knew she was excited. The last thing I wanted was to worry her. After all, as far as she knew, this was a fun trip to see her grandma. She did not need to know that grandma had apparently gone missing and we might not be able to get into the house because it didn’t like me.

Heaven help me, how was I going to explain the house, not to mention everything else, to a five-year-old?

***

As for the book I’m supposed to be finishing, Dagger of Elanna, I am. One thing this hijacking did was it let me come back to Dagger with a fresh set of eyes. I figured out what was hanging me up in the book and have pushed forward. Hopefully, I will have it finished in another three weeks or so. In the meantime, check out the first book in that series, Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1).

I’m alive, at least I think I am.

When I wrote last week’s post, I knew I was fighting something. I figured it was just allergies. They’ve been especially bad this year. Besides, I had work to do. A book to finish and editing job I’m almost finished with. I didn’t have time to baby myself with a day or two off. What I didn’t expect was that by the weekend, what was ailing me would lay me low. You see, I wasn’t paying attention to what my body said. Heck, I wasn’t even listening to the muse who was telling me something was wrong.

The result was three days spent basically in bed. One of them I basically lost to sleep once the fever from Hell broke. That meant no work got done for basically four days. No writing. No editing. No nothing. Once the fever broke, I could at least read. The first day was reading fluff. By the second day, I was able to graduate back to science fiction and some good mysteries. Let me put it this way. In the last few days, I have read more than half a dozen books and started as many more.

So, when yesterday rolled around, I felt good enough to work. I had research to do, so looked forward to getting on the internet to deal with some of it. Except…..no internet. No phone. No television. In short, no nothing. It’s a long story and I won’t bore you with the details but if you haven’t figured it out by now, I have little patience for incompetence or bad customer service. After spending more than an hour on the phone with my service provider finding out what was going on, the blood pressure was up and the ability to think without cursing Nicki-style (some of you will know what I mean) had gone out the door.

That meant any detail oriented work — aka editing — was out the door as well. The distractions of having to deal with workmen, forcing them to explain what the issue was and not let them get away with the “she’s a woman, she won’t understand” attitude kept me from the mindset needed to edit. Add in an 84 year old mother who didn’t understand what was going on and having to explain it to her and, well, yesterday was a perfect storm.

A perfect storm for Myrtle the Muse to attack and attack hard.

I’d seen the signs. I’d even commented to a couple of friends the day before that I had a story idea trying to attack but I was ignoring it. After all, I’m in the middle of a book and have two more on the schedule to complete ASAP. The last thing I needed was a book to hit hard right now. Nope, I wasn’t going to let it happen.

Famous last words. One day, I’m going to learn that attitude is nothing more than a challenge to Myrtle. She is the most evil of muses.

So, here I sat yesterday,  no internet unless I used my smartphone as a mobile hotspot and tethered the laptop to it (which I did for short bursts). Each time, I watched my data disappear and kept doing the math in my head. Even with my rollover minutes, would I have enough to last the month? Then, when Mom asked if she could tether in so she could play one of her “casino” games, I had to put my foot down. Nope, that wasn’t going to happen — mainly because she plays all day and I could really see my data spilling out the bottom of my phone, never to be seen again.

Then I realized that I had been working. Hmmm, when had Myrtle taken over my hands? More importantly, what was Myrtle doing?

And did I really want to know?

Barely daring to look at what was on my screen, I started reading. Nope, never heard the book before. Nope, nope, nope. I didn’t recognize the characters. Crap, what was Myrtle the Muse up to?

I blame Pat Patterson. I really do. After reading Slay Bells Ring, he told me he wanted another book using those characters and setting. I sort of played with the idea but, as I noted above, I had other projects on the burner. If something came from his suggestion, it would be later. Next year at the earliest.

Except Myrtle had other ideas. The more I read of what I’d been writing, the more I realized it was set in the same small town and some of the same cast of characters were there in supporting roles. But there was a difference. Where Julianna Grissom might have felt like her grandfather was reaching out from beyond the grave to manipulate her life, there was no real supernatural aspect to the story. At least not overtly. She didn’t need that on top of her mother who was, let’s face it, the least grown up of the entire family.

This new book, however, oh boy is there magic and who knows what else in it and poor Drew, Julianna’s brother, is right in the middle of it. Oh, there’s a mystery as well and some romance but it is the magic that has me wondering what in the world Myrtle the Muse was drinking when she took control of my hands yesterday.

What I have figured out is that this book is the bridge between Slay Bells Ring and Skeletons in the Closet. The former is very definitely and romantic suspense. It hints at supernatural but in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way. Skeletons, which has insisted on being set in the same town, is most definitely filled with supernatural. The local witch has cursed the main character’s mother to have all the family’s dearly departed return to the old homestead. Mama has the tools to break the curse — if she thinks about it. Which she doesn’t. Lexie, the main character, discovers she is like her father’s side of the family, which means she is anything but “normal”. It seems that when someone from Mossy Creek says you are from the other side of the tracks, it has nothing to do with your financial status but everything to do with your family’s otherness. And poor Lexie is simply doing her best not to be hit by the bus her mother hopes for, not because Mama wants her dead but because Mama wants her to marry the ER doctor who will save her life, taking not only Lexie but Mama (whether Lexie agrees or not) far from Mossy Creek.

This new book spans the two. Drew Grissom is from the normal side of town. Like everyone else, he is aware of the special talents, if you want to call them that, of some of the town members. He just prefers to act as if they don’t exist. Katie O’Donnell comes from the other side of town and, like Julianna, had left Mossy Creek as soon as she was able. She’s back now to find out what’s happened to a member of her family. That pulls Drew, one of the local cops, into the mix. Add in a protective big sister who isn’t afraid to use her powers to find their mother or keep Drew from hurting Katie and, well . . . .

Myrtle is scaring me. This is so not what I usually do. But she is determined. So determined, in fact, that I put out more than 10k words in an outline yesterday. At least she is satisfied with just outlining the story right now. Of course, I’m also afraid this is just the prelude to her demanding the book be written — NOW!

So, please, keep your fingers crossed she lets me finish the next few books first. But if I start gibbering even more unintelligibly than usual, you will know what happened. Myrtle has taken over not only my fingers but my brain as well.

Help me. Please.

VBEG.

Welcome to a day in the life of a nad genius. We never know when or where inspiration will strike or what direction it will take.

Some thoughts, some promo

After the usual suspects came up empty when I asked for blog topics last night, I found myself wondering just what to write about today. It would be easy enough to do a riff on the “outrage” over Neil Gaiman’s Clarion tweet. But that’s been done by better folks than me (waves at Brad). I could do a post on critique groups but, again, it’s been done before by several of us here. So what to do, what to do?

Then I came across the latest kerfluffle in the industry. Once again, there’s a debate going on about whether or not author’s should be paid royalties for used book sales. I touched on the topic earlier but it seems that this is the topic that won’t go away, at least not right away. So, here is the question: should authors be paid royalties for used book sales?

Kristen Lamb comes down on the side of paying royalties for used book sales.(Edited to add: while Ms. Lamb does not specifically say this, I felt it was inferred. As always, I leave it to our readers to go see what she had to say and make their own decision.)  It seems Ms. Lamb was up in arms over the fact that “like TEN writers” had linked to the Washington Post’s article about the resurgence of used bookstores. Worse, those writers were excited by them. Her biggest issue with used bookstores is that writers don’t get paid for books sold through them. She goes on to say that if she does buy a book through a used bookstore, she does her best to also buy the digital version so the author gets money. Her main point, if you haven’t already guessed, is that writers should be paid for their product.

Now, I like getting paid as much as the next writer. I’m not in this to suffer for my art. I have bills to pay and animals that really do start looking at me funny if they don’t get their kibble on time. But, as nice as it sounds to be paid for second sales, I’m a realist as well. It’s hard enough to get actual sales numbers from traditional publishing without worrying about how they will account for used book sales. Let’s face it, authors right now are only getting paid for books it is estimated are sold and it is going to stay that way as long as publishers use services like BookScan to tell them how many books are sold at certain stores and then — thanks to handwavium — this is how many books we think were sold system-wide.

So, say you do get through a clause in your publishing contract that says you will be paid for second sales of your books. How is that going to be handled? How many mom and pop used bookstores are there out there? Are you going to require them to put in the hardware and software necessary to scan every book that comes through their doors and then upload that data to some central server — ala BookScan — so publishers can then figure out what the royalty amount should be?

Next question: if you do that, are publishers then going to try to put limits on what the price for these used books might be? After all, publishers aren’t going to want to be left out of this equation. Neither are the agents. Do you see what I’m getting at? That royalty you, the author, were looking forward to is now a pittance of what it might have been because of all the other folks with their hands out.

Question the third: if you start tracking used book sales, will that impact the definition of “in print” for conversion purposes?

All of that is something to consider before we, as authors, start making demands where used bookstores are concerned. But there is more.

As I said, I’m not in this business just to give away my time and my work. This is my job just as much as it is my calling. If I wanted to just write, that’s what I’d do and I would return to the corporate world. After all, I spent years writing for my own entertainment and then shoved all that work under the bed, or in the closet or used it to build bonfires. Then someone — Sarah — applied pointy boots to my posterior and I haven’t looked back. I like the money I make from this gig and I like it when people tell me they have read something I wrote and enjoyed it. Getting those emails or PMs asking when the next book comes out gives me warm tingly feelings.

However, I recognize that used bookstores serve their purpose. Much like libraries, used bookstores allow people who either can’t or won’t pay new book prices to discover the work of authors they hadn’t tried before. We might not make a few pennies in royalties from that “sale” but we gain something else: word of mouth. That is our most important and powerful form of promotion. If someone likes something we write, they will tell their family and friends. Those folks, in turn, may very well buy one or more of our books, be it in print or digital. These same used book purchasers do still leave reviews on Amazon and other sites. That, too, is important. Sure, they don’t show up as “verified purchasers” but a good review is always something we should welcome.

Eric Flint has addressed this issue at length and, while he and I might not agree on a lot of things, this is one topic we are pretty much in agreement on. Go take a look at what he has to say.

Now for the promo, because I am in this for the money. For those who have been following my blog, you know that this last two months have been busy ones for me. I’ve managed to publish two novels and put a third up for pre-order.

Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) is now available for pre-order. Release is set for April 18th.

War isn’t civilized and never will be, not when there are those willing to do whatever is necessary to win. That is a lesson Col. Ashlyn Shaw learned the hard way. Now she and those under her command fight an enemy determined to destroy their home world. Worse, an enemy lurks in the shadows, manipulating friend and foe alike.

Can Ashlyn hold true to herself and the values of her beloved Corps in the face of betrayal and loss? Will honor rise from the ashes of false promises and broken faith? Ashlyn and the Devil Dogs are determined to see that it does, no matter what the cost.

Slay Bells Ring is a mixture of mystery and romance, with the emphasis more on mystery. This is the book that forced me to write it.

Fifteen years ago, Juliana Grissom left Mossy Creek in her rear view mirror. She swore then she would never return for more than a day or two at a time. But even the best laid plans can go awry, something she knew all too well, especially when her family was involved.

Now she’s back and her family expects her to find some way to clear her mother of murder charges. Complicating her life even further is Sam Caldwell, the man she never got over. Now it seems everyone in town is determined to find a way to keep her there, whether she wants to stay or not.

Bodies are dropping. Gossip is flying and Juliana knows time is running out. After all, holidays can be murder in Mossy Creek.

And finally, Nocturnal Challenge, the fourth book in the Nocturnal Lives series.

Nocturnal Challenge (Nocturnal Lives Book 4)

By Amanda Green

The one thing Lt. Mackenzie Santos had always been able to count on was the law. But that was before she started turning furry. Now she finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy to keep the truth from the public-at-large. She knows they aren’t ready to learn that monsters are real and they might be living next door.

If that isn’t enough, trouble is brewing among the shapeshifters. The power struggle has already resulted in the kidnapping and near fatal injury of several of Mac’s closest friends. She is now in the middle of what could quickly turn into a civil war, one that would be disastrous for all of them.

What she wouldn’t give to have a simple murder case to investigate and a life that didn’t include people who wanted nothing more than to add her death to the many they were already responsible for.

The first three volumes (Nocturnal Origins, Nocturnal Serenade and Nocturnal Interlude
are available individually or as the Nocturnal Lives “boxed set”.) are also available.

NaNo is over. What now?

That collective sigh of relief and groan of frustration you heard yesterday came from the hoards of authors who met — or didn’t — their NaNoWriMo goals. Now they are looking at those 50,000 words and wondering what to do with them. Should they put them aside for a bit and then come back to see if they are anywhere close to a book or if they more resemble a cabbage. Others are wondering why they couldn’t meet the deadline and wondering how they can ever be an author if they can’t successfully complete NaNo. Then there are those who know they finished their 50,000 words, that they have a book (of sorts) as a result but aren’t sure it is worth the work they will have to put in to bring it to publishable standards.

All of those reactions — and more — are why I don’t particularly like NaNo. I’ve done it. I’ve failed more often than I’ve successfully concluded it. I’ve seen the faces of those in my writer’s group go pale, their features slack, when I ask if they are going to take part. I can’t blame them. For most folks, writing 50,000 words in 30 days sounds next to impossible. For a lot, it is. Real life always seems to find ways to keep them from the keyboard and adding the pressure of an artificial goal only compounds the pressure to write to the point that the muse not only goes quiet but she goes somewhere far, far away.

Still, I recommend NaNo to almost everyone, especially those who have had a dry stretch. However — don’t laugh. You knew there had to be a but to all this — I tell folks not to let the 50,000 word goal put them off. If they don’t think they can do that much, then they should set a more reasonable sounding goal. Then, during the course of NaNo, they need to do their best to stick to their goal (and be ready to tell the crit group how they did and what they think helped them meet their goal or what caused them to miss it). What I have learned over the last few years is that NaNo can and does serve as a good kick in the writerly butt for some of them and it also lets them see what sort of distractions they have started allowing into their writing time, many of which they can learn how to ignore or at least postpone until they get their writing in for the day/week/month.

I’ll admit, as I already have, that I usually don’t meet my NaNo goals. That’s because I know I can do 50k in a month and don’t adjust the word count. That is when Real Life tends to kick me in the teeth. Whether it is illness, either of me or a family member, or death or something around the house deciding to go MIA, something always seems to happen. It did this year. The difference was that I still managed to not only meet my 50k goal but I exceeded it.

So what was different?

A couple of things. First, I didn’t start with a brand new project. I had one project I was close to finishing and another I had been messing around with for a year or so that I wanted to finally put to bed. The first project, Nocturnal Challenge (Nocturnal Lives Book 4) , had been one of those books that fought me every step of the way. Using NaNo, I finally got it finished and it is currently available for pre-order. Publication date is December 15th for the e-book and shortly after that for the print version.  I honestly feel that if I hadn’t had the double deadlines of NaNo and of the pre-order drop dead date of December 5th to get the final version uploaded to Amazon, I might still be fighting the book. Not because I didn’t know what to write but because I started the book thinking it would be the end of the current story arc for the series, only to find there is one more book left. I don’t like change and this was a big change for my writer’s brain to take in. Any way, I did 20k words on Challenge and it will go live in a little more than two weeks.

The second book, Slay Bells Ring, is a departure. Before I get into the heart of Honor from Ashes, the next book in the Honor and Duty (2 Book Series), I needed to do something that wasn’t as intense as Challenge had been or Honor will be. So, I went back to Slay Bells Ring, a romantic suspense novel. It will be finished in another day or two, coming in at approximately 90,000 words or so. Of those, I have written 60,000 this past month. Even for me, that (added with the 20k from Challenge) is a lot to do in a month. But this past month has been one of those where the stress had to be countered with something else and that meant writing. The only downside has been that my blogging has gone by the wayside. I’ve discovered that when I go on a writing jag like I have been on this month, I don’t blog. Not even about my writing. There is something about having to switch to the blogging mindset more than once a week (MGC) takes me out of the creative mind. So . . . . the result is that I will be releasing the e-book of Slay Bells Ring Christmas week. Two books in one month is a record for me and not particularly one I want to repeat any time soon.

So, what’s the purpose of this post other than to blow my own NaNo horn? Part of it is to encourage those who didn’t manage to make the 50k goal of the “official” NaNo rules not to give up. Adapt and adjust the word count next year to what you think you can do and then add a little to it. It is also to say not to get discouraged if you didn’t meet it this year. Real life happens and, as those of us who post here can tell you, it happens more often than any of us would like. NaNo is a great kick in the pants, if you let it and if you don’t take it too seriously. Just remember that there will be times when you meet the goal and times when you don’t, times when you blow past the goal and times when you don’t come close. It doesn’t really matter as long as you keep writing.

So, to answer my question at the top of the post. What comes next? Write some more.