Wednesday, December 14, 2016

To-Do Lists and Other Organizational Methods

Friday will be my last day of work for the year. I'm always stingy with my vacation days, since I never know when my son will get sick or if something happens at school or daycare. That means I still have a lot of time to use up. I'm not planning to go anywhere; instead, I'm making a master list in Word of everything from chores to do around the house, writing/publishing tasks to work on, other personal project, and even fun things for me and my family to do. By the time I finish this list, I'm sure it will be overwhelming and probably more than I'll realistically be able to complete in two weeks. I'm not going to plot out a timetable for all these activities either. After all, my productivity is going to depend in part on whether my son is home (and yes, I have activities with him on the list too). It may be a very informal way to manage my tasks, but as long as I complete a good amount of them, that's all I need.

How do you organize your tasks? Do you create to-do lists, or do you use another method? Do you use paper, apps, or a combination of them? Feel free to share your method (or madness, if you prefer) in the comments.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Goodreads Reading Challenge Update

I don't have much to talk about today, so I thought I'd give you a quick update on my 2016 Goodreads Reading Challenge. I wanted to read 200 books this year, and I've currently read 180, which puts me eight books behind schedule. In addition to the books I have on my Currently Reading shelf, I also have two others that I'm working on. It'll be a tough pace to finish 20 books before the end of the year, especially if they're not short. Good thing I have the last two weeks of the year off. We'll see how close I get to 200.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

IWSG: An Indie Author's Five-Year Plan

Welcome to the final Insecure Writer's Support Group post of 2016! Today's co-hosts include Jennifer Hawes, Jen Chandler, Nick Wilford, Juneta Key, JH Moncrieff, Diane Burton, and MJ Fifield.

This month, we've been given the question: In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what's your plan to get there?

I have two goals in mind for the next five years:

1. Publish at least two works a year, even if they're not full-length novels (though I ought to be able to manage at least one novel a year). For example, in 2017 I plan to publish Young Seasons, a short story collection about the Season Avatars, and Summon the Seasons, the final book in the Season Avatars series. I plan to write the first book (tentatively titled Dryads to Discover) in a new urban fantasy series next year, but it might not be ready until 2018. There will be at least two other books in the urban fantasy series, plus I want to develop a spin-off series called Selathen Avatars that takes place after Summon the Seasons. At some point, I'd like to return to the Catalyst Chronicles series (I'm struggling with a short story called "The Unnumbered World," which is told from a minor character's POV. Since Julia is half-Navajo, writing from her perspective is a challenge.) I'm sure there will be even more ideas down the line--the trick is keeping up with them all and giving myself sufficient lead time from first draft to publication.

2. Grow my mailing list to at least 1,000 subscribers. Thanks to a highly promoted giveaway on Instafreebie, over 300 people signed on to my mailing list in exchange for a free copy of Scattered Seasons. I intend to keep the giveaway running for a while; perhaps as my backlist expands, I'll be able to switch out the books I offer for free. The key will be keeping my current subscribers even as I add others.

If you're an author, do you have a five-year plan? Feel free to describe it in the comments.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Guest Post by Aviva Rothschild

  My friend Aviva Rothschild recently published a sequel to her Beatles/gaming novel With Strings Attached. It's called The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World. She's here to discuss some of the themes in Keys. Take it away, Aviva!

            Many thanks to Sandra for giving me this space today!
            Almost six years ago I finished what turned out to be a 29-year project: the Beatles fanfic fantasy novel, With Strings Attached, or The Big Pink Job. I'd always had sequels in mind, and I had gotten started on the first one while finishing up Strings. It went through several name changes (not to mention plot changes), but I settled on The Keys Stand Alone. Because it's turning out to be longer than Strings, I decided to split it into two volumes; hence, the first volume is now The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World. (The second volume will be Keys: The Hard World.) It is currently available in a Kindle version on Amazon, and I intend to have the hard copy version done within a few days.
            Strings followed our heroes in 1980, when they suddenly found themselves thrown together on a planet called C'hou, sixteen years younger and terrified out of their minds. One thing led to another, and by the end of the book they'd been considerably empowered and had accomplished a universe-spanning quest to remove a curse from a continent... though their actions resulted in even greater changes to the entirety of C'hou, as well as changes to themselves and their peace of mind. Changes that they would confront ten weeks later in Keys, after having been sent back to Earth in their original bodies. While those days had been slipping by here, C'hou saw almost six years go by, and our heroes quickly discover that now nearly everything is different, including the landscape and the inhabitants.
            Not to mention the war that had broken out in the interim between the newly established White and Black Towers. And the huge swarm of outworlders who had been imported by the enfeebled White Tower gods to fight for them, but who tended to fight one another more than the Black Tower and its minions.
            So here come our peace-minded heroes, more powerful than nearly everyone else but absolutely opposed to the violence around them. Imagine their horror when they're told by the gods that they must help one of the outworlder Power Groups defeat the Black Tower, or they'll never get home!
             Strings touched upon a lot of the themes in Keys, but with more time to mull everything over, I did my best to more fully examine certain problems inherent in both the situation and in the kind of empowerment that our heroes experienced. For example, what is good? What is evil? How contextual are they? What happens when people, especially powerful people rubbing up against one another, have very different definitions of good and evil? Is pacifism always good, or are there times when it could be considered evil?  I do not and cannot provide answers, but hopefully I convey how complicated such questions are, and how seeing things in simple black-and-white terms is fairly useless in real-world situations.
            Keys is also sort of a parallel to the middle part of the Beatles experience, in that what they once found fun and exciting in Strings has now become much more toxic, if not outright deadly. Again, the toxicity is both internal and external to them. Not only must they deal with magic that can be dangerously unreliable—or worse, dangerously seductive—but they find that nearly everyone wants something from them. And quite often, what people want is not something that our heroes want to give....
            At least, though, they have each other. At least they can trust one another. If Keys does nothing else, it reestablishes what a tight unit the four can be, and had been at their peak. It reminds readers that whatever their differences, the four loved one another deeply and shared something that no one else can really fully comprehend.

The Kindle edition of The Keys Stand Alone is here:
Curious about With Strings Attached, or want to buy a copy in one of several different formats?
The Facebook page for Strings, which includes some artwork not in the book or on the website:

Aviva's Bio: Aviva Rothschild is the world's most overeducated fanfic writer. In the past she worked as a book editor, technical writer, and (briefly) website designer. Currently she writes, makes soap, and sells stuff on eBay in the store “Gatsby's Great Stuff.” Besides her Beatles writing, she's known for having written the very first bibliography of graphic novels, Graphic Novels: A Bibliographic Guide to Book-Length Comics. Naturally, she collects graphic novels. She also collects musical theatre recordings on CDs and other musical formats.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Summon the Seasons--Rough Draft Finished!

I had thought last night about putting up a musical tribute to George Harrison for today (yesterday was the 15th anniversary of his passing), but I was busy with another project--finishing the rough draft of Summon the Seasons, the fifth (and final) book in the Season Avatars series. I'd like to think George would approve, as Kay is the spiritual one in this quartet. I finally managed to complete the draft after 11:00. It's about 94,000 words, making it the longest book in the series. (Not surprising, since I have to tie up all the loose ends.) I started this in April, so it's definitely not a NaNoWriMo project. The entire series was about a twenty-year project, so I have good reason to celebrate. Time to take some time away from this book, catch up on reading and other writing projects, and not return to Summon the Seasons until next year. In the meantime, here's one of my favorite George Harrison songs:

Monday, November 28, 2016

Five Questions for Ysabel from Fifth Season

Today the eBook version of Fifth Season officially goes live. To celebrate, I thought it would be fun to conduct an interview with Ysabel, the main character. Picture her in a parlor decorated in red, with colorful leaves and nuts in vases. She sits in front of a lit fireplace and drinks mulled cider. Her cat, Pouncer, curls contentedly next to her while rain pounds the windows.

1. You're the first Season Avatar to have both Challen (native) and Selathen (foreign) ancestry. Do you think this is significant?

Ysabel--The Four Gods and Goddesses of Challen make sure all souls are reborn into suitable lives, but They take special care with Their Avatars. In fact, the Goddess of Fall asked my mother to marry a Selathen man. My mother has been teaching Selathen women about The Four, but I've also learned how to speak Selathen and how to behave around Selathen men. I'm sure at some point in my career I'll need those skills.

2 If you weren't a Season Avatar, what would you do with your life?

Ysabel--Oh, I definitely want to have at least four children, but I'd still like to work with animals. Maybe I would breed or train horses. (I'd add dogs, but since my anilink is a cat, I don't think that would be a good idea.)

3. The Goddess of Fall doesn't like men, but you want to have lots of children someday. Has there ever been a conflict between your duty and your desire? If so, how did you handle it?

Ysabel--Fall would probably want all of Her Avatars to pledge themselves as Fallswomen, women who choose not to marry for whatever reason they choose. She does allow us to marry, but I'd never marry someone who didn't like animals. (lowers voice) What I'd really like is to spend one life as a man, just to compare. All of the other Avatars switch between male and female, but Fall won't let us be men. Maybe someday She'll forgive men for whatever crime they committed....

4. Does it ever get confusing remembering other lives?

Ysabel (smiles)--All the time! Sometimes I think I visited a place in my current life when it was really in a previous one. I'm always reincarnated alongside Gwen, Jenna, and Kay, but sometimes I think I must have known other people in previous lives. And I always have to refer to history or fashion to remember which life occurred when. But the good thing about remembering other lives is that I don't have to start over learning about animals. Memories of animals are clearer than personal memories. In every life, I always learn something new.

5. What's your favorite animal and why?

Ysabel--By the Four, how can you pick just one? Cats are graceful, birds are beautiful, and even fish can be fascinating. I guess I'll have to pick my anilink, Pouncer. (rubs him behind the ears) Pouncer and I can mentally communicate with each other, even if we're not touching. He can sense when Chaos Season happens anywhere in Challen....(Pouncer bolts for the door, fur raised along his spine.) Oh no, another Chaos Season! I must go! (dashes off)

Er, thank you, Ysabel, and good luck taming Chaos Season! Don't forget to read her story in Fifth Season. If you haven't caught up with the Season Avatars yet, you can do so by reading Seasons' Beginnings, Scattered Seasons, and Chaos Season first.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Interview with Susan Darlene Faw

As part of the massive Instafreebie giveaway I'm participating in this week, authors and bloggers are performing a little cross-promotion on each other's blogs. Today I'm hosting Susan Darlene Faw, author of Seer of Souls.

The time for hiding is finished. The dead are restless. She is COMING...

Twins Cayden and Avery Tiernan have grown up in isolation on the fringe of the realm. Gifted with forbidden skills, they hide their growing magical powers. Ancient prophecies speak of the ones with the power to depose the queen.

To protect her throne, Queen Alcina scours the land for evidence of magic, while the darker force she serves threatens the land with chaos. She is not the only huntress however. Primordial seekers discover the twins first but before they can escape, the death of a queen’s guard puts the entire village in jeopardy. To save their town, the twins flee, only to be dragged toward an unknown destiny.

Guided by her gift, Avery senses lies and treachery where others see only truth. Dare she trust her instincts? For Cayden, an irresistible voice whispers to him. Does it belong to the souls of the dead and are they calling him home?

I have two more books written and published in the series, a prequel entitled Soul Survivor, which I give away for free as an introduction to the series via instafrerbie to grow my mailing list & fan base. ( )
Book two is a January release.

Here's a short interview with Susan:

1. What is your writing Kryptonite?

2. Do you want each book to stand on its own or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I am building a series of books (prequel plus 3) that will be a box set. You could read the books independently but you will get more out of them if you read them in order. I will always write in series, I am simply think in grand scales!

3. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? The $20.00 per month subscription cost for Instafreebie. It’s dynomite!

4. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Ten, because my first book was picked up by a publisher and all focus swung that way, but until then, I had started a few other series to see how I felt about what I wanted to write next. When the Spirit Shield Saga finishes up in the spring of 2017, I have my next new novel already 1/3 written, a nice boost if I say so myself!

5. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones? I read them, but mostly try to ignore them. I never look at Goodreads reviews, and only Amazon so that I can keep count as I am pushing for a certain level of book reviews before the launch of my next book in the series in January. It’s called Soul Sanctuary and I just put it up for pre-order, today!

6. Does your family support your career as a writer?
What, mom is a writer?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Science Fiction/Fantasy Book Giveaway!

Networking is a beautiful thing. Thanks to a self-publishing mailing list that I belong to, I was able to join a major science fiction/fantasy book giveaway being held on Instafreebie. It's running through November 26th, and over 40 authors are participating. You can see the entire list of available books here, including my work, Scattered Seasons. In return for these freebies, you will be asked to join that author's mailing list for each book you download. There's bound to be something for every SF/fantasy fan, so check it out.

Lady Gwendolyn lo Havil is an Ava Spring, born to heal others and lead the Season Avatars of her generation. Season Avatars with divine magic must work in groups of four to save the country of Challen from Chaos Season, times when all of the seasons appear at once. When the current Ava Spring dies in a riding accident, Gwen must find the other three Season Avatars she will link with.  But two of them are missing, and with Gwen's own magic crippled by a cursed pottery shard, she will have to use all of her skills to find the Avatars scattered across the country of Challen. During her journey, she meets a stranger who claims to know the shard's origin. Is he truly an ally of the Season Avatars, or is he trying to stop them from uniting?

Don't forget Seasons' Beginnings, the first book of the series, is permafree at major eBook retailers. You can find your favorite store through this link.

Kron Evenhanded is an artificer, able to enchant any man-made object, but he finds people more difficult to work with. When he visits the city of Vistichia, he encounters Sal-thaath, an extremely magical but dangerous child created by Salth, another magician Kron knew at the Magic Institute. Kron attempts to civilize Sal-thaath, but when his efforts lead to tragedy, Kron is forced to ally himself with a quartet of new deities and their human Avatars. Together they must defend Vistichia as Salth attempts to drain its life and magic. But Salth has Ascended halfway to godhood over Time. Will Kron’s artifacts be enough to protect the Avatars, especially the woman he loves, or will Time separate them?


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