Is Iceland magical to you? It is for a lot of others, as well! I went in 2015 and came back enchanted with the land. I set part of my book, Past Storm and Fire, in this mystical landscape.
Is Iceland magical to you? It is for a lot of others, as well! I went in 2015 and came back enchanted with the land. I set part of my book, Past Storm and Fire, in this mystical landscape.
In Time Tourist Outfitters, Ltd., my characters, Wilda and Mattea, visit the court of Mansa Musa in their travels…
In the vast fictional universe of Marvel Comics, T’Challa, better known as Black Panther, is not only king of Wakanda, he’s also the richest superhero of them all. And although today’s fight for the title of wealthiest person alive involves a tug-of-war between billionaire CEOs, the wealthiest person in history, Mansa Musa, has more in common with Marvel’s first black superhero.
Musa became ruler of the Mali Empire in 1312, taking the throne after his predecessor, Abu-Bakr II, for whom he’d served as deputy, went missing on a voyage he took by sea to find the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. Musa’s rule came at a time when European nations were struggling due to raging civil wars and a lack of resources. During that period, the Mali Empire flourished thanks to ample natural resources like gold and salt.
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Release date July 19th, 2017
Would you dare rouse a goddess?
Life wasn’t easy in 1798 Ireland. Rebellions were rising across the countryside, and the English could be cruel overlords. However, this brutality hadn’t reached the country estate of Strokestown.
Theodosia Latimer and her grandfather Reginald, were on a mission to discover the past. They were determined to excavate some ancient mounds on their estate. But when they discovered an imprisoned goddess straight out of Ireland’s rich mythological history, they were both dumbfounded and frightened.
Tasked with integrating this primeval warrior woman into polite society, they developed both respect and fear for the powerful goddess. Would they be able to tame her lust for violence in the upcoming rebellion? Or would they fall victim to it?
Release date March 8th, 2017
Based on the ancient Irish Fairy Tale, The Children of Lir
In pre-Celtic Ireland, Fionnuala was a fae princess, born to a life of luxury. She knew her duty and loved her family. She missed her mother, who died in childbirth when Fionnuala was but ten years old. Still, she had hopes and dreams of love and a full life.
All her dreams were stolen from her, ripped away in a torrent of envy and magic.
Now she must care for her three brothers while learning to live under an evil curse. Will she find a way to break the spell, or would they remain swans, tethered to three places for nine hundred years?
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Age of Saints: Historical fantasy set in Ireland, 520. First in the new trilogy! (Release March 6, 2019)
The Druid’s Brooch is a family legacy, handed down through countless generations, granting each holder a specific magical power, unique to them. Follow the stories of these generations.
Legacy of Hunger
Ireland is no promised land in 1846. It is wracked by a crippling potato blight, and people are dying. But Valentia McDowell doesn’t know that.
From her father’s prosperous farm in Ohio, young Valentia is haunted by tales of an abandoned family and a lost heirloom. She travels to her grandmother’s homeland with her brother, Conor, and two servants, to find both. Her delight in the exciting journey on one of the first steam ships to cross the Atlantic is shattered by a horrible tragedy.
What she encounters upon her arrival in Ireland is both more and less than she had hoped. Valentia finds both enemies and allies, amid horrors and delights, and a small bit of magic. She finds a richer heritage than she had ever imagined, but it comes with a price.
When she finally reaches her goal, a terrible price is demanded. She must pay or forfeit, and both decisions have strong consequences for her and her friends.
First Place Winner in the Historical Fiction Category of Published Books in the East Texas Writers Guild First Chapter Book Awards.
Finalist for The Wishing Shelf Book Awards – Adult Fiction 2016
Legacy of Truth
Gifted with a magical brooch, passed down in her family for generations, Esme finds herself isolated and ill in an unfamiliar land.
Her sister plots to steal the family heirloom from her in order to exploit the magical powers for her own gain, and Esme must battle for survival of herself and those she loves.
Nominee for Global eBook Awards 2016
Legacy of Luck
Irish Traveler Éamonn loves gambling, women, and drinking, not necessarily in that order. But he’s entangled in a true mess when he falls for fiery redhead, Katie. When she’s married to a Scottish Traveler, Éamonn travels to Scotland to find her, with the help of Katie’s sister and cousin, and the magical brooch gifted by his father. Their quest takes them across the Irish Sea to the Isle of Skye, encountering war, betrayal, death. In the end, Éamonn must make his own luck.
Second Place winner in the Historical Fiction category of Works in Progress for the East Texas Writers Guild First Chapter Book Awards
Winner of January 2017 Chill With a Book Award – Readers’ Award.
Misfortune of Vision
Prophecy can be dangerous
In 12th century Ireland, Orlagh has been Seer to her king for forty years. He doesn’t want to hear her prophecies of war and destruction, and dismisses her efforts to warn him. Therefore, she is determined to fulfill her own quest: to find a worthy heir for her magical brooch.
In the course of events, she must pass judgment on a thief, escape a Norman war camp, and battle wits with a Fae lord. She receives some prophecy of her own and enlists the help of a grizzled old warrior, who happens to be a long–time friend.
Misfortune of Song
Even a soldier cannot fight love
In 12th century Ireland, all Maelan wants is to do his duty to his Chief and maintain his family’s good name. However, his granddaughter Orlagh, is hell bent on wreaking havoc, with no care for the consequences.
When Orlagh falls in love with an itinerant bard, Maelan must rule with an iron fist to keep her from running away. However, her rebellion against his strictures results in disaster and he almost loses her in the same way he lost his beloved wife.
Maelan must make some difficult decisions and bargains with the Fae to save his granddaughter’s life and future. Can he save her happiness as well?
Misfortune of Time
— Time Heals No Wounds —
In 11th century Ireland, Étaín must hide her pagan magic from her pious Christian priest husband, Airtre. She wants to escape his physical abuse, but she must stay to protect their grandson, Maelan. Over many lifetimes, she has learned how to endure her own pain, but Maelan is young and vulnerable.
When Airtre’s paranoia and jealousy spiral out of control, Étaín has no choice but to escape in the night with little more than the clothing on her back, leaving a trusted friend to protect Maelan.
This is not the first lifetime Étaín has fled, and she knows how to survive. But when her past comes back to haunt her, she must make decisions that may result in disaster for her, her grandson, and everyone she loves.
Age of Saints
— A daring escape, a brother’s duty, and a tragic mistake —
When Conall’s father died, he made his son promise always to take care of his little sister, Lainn.
Lainn could sing the bees from their hives, and make the morning sun sparkle in the winter with her laughter. Conall loved his sister with all his heart, and would do anything to protect her, even without a promise to his father.
Between an abusive step-father, a powerful Faerie Queen, and a maddened Fae Lord, every decision Conall made seemed to be the wrong one. Starvation, imprisonment, madness, and disfigurement plagued them. Even when he tried to follow his heart, it turned to disaster.
Can Conall correct his mistakes and save Lainn’s life and soul? Would it cost him his own?
This is my methodology. Feel free to use it, borrow it, smash it, mangle it, fold it, staple it, do whatever you like with it to make it work for you, even toss it out and do your own thing. Everyone writes in a different manner, and that’s what makes reading wonderful.
Some people are Pantsers, writing scenes from the seat of their pants, all over the place, and then stringing them together. Diana Gabaldon, bestselling author of the Outlander books, says she does it this way. Others, like me, are Planners. As an accountant, I’m a methodical person. I set things out step by step and, for the most part, follow that plan.
Step 1: Concept
My first novel was easy. I was, in fact, inspired to start writing the story long before I actually gave it a go. The story of my parents’ love, interrupted by 30 years, and finally married because I, the result of their first affair, found my father. But often the concept is difficult to come up with. There is a misconception that the concept needs to be unique, unusual, never done before. Maeve Binchy wrote many wonderful books about people in everyday life, going about their business. Buying houses, losing jobs, going to night school, going to college, whatever it was, she wrote character-driven stories in normal plots.
Other novels are plot-driven, full of adventure, betrayal and alien worlds. Neither is better, nor worse. It’s simply a different market.
My second novel was a bit more difficult. I knew I wanted to write about Ireland, as that is my soul’s home, and I’ve been there many times. There are many areas of history in Ireland that I love, and I felt needed to be highlighted. For instance, the Great Hunger of 1846, when half the population died or emigrated, was a great example. So, what would happen if someone went back, instead? Someone, descended from a prior immigrant, returned to Ireland to find her family, only to discover she was in the midst of a genocide? Also, I wanted to add in some fairy magic, as this was, after all, Ireland, a land of myth and mystery. This became the concept for my second novel, Legacy of Hunger. “A spoiled young lady travels back to Ireland in 1846 to discover her family and a lost magical heirloom.”
Step 2: Synopsis
Once I had the concept, I used something called the Snowflake Method. It’s what I use – not everyone will love it, but I do. The basic idea is that you start with your concept, and write one basic sentence about it. Then you expand that into three sentences, adding a few details about plot and character. Then each sentence becomes a paragraph, and then again until you have a 2-3 page synopsis with subplots and minor characters. Sort of like a snowflake gets more details as it gets larger. Get it? Of course!
Step 3: Characters
The synopsis then gets set aside for a moment and I work on characters. The same thing holds true. Start with a name, add some physical and mental characteristics, a couple of motivations. Make sure to add both flaws and virtues. Maybe a nervous tic, or a bad habit or two. Find good names. A basic rule of thumb is not to have them too similar. In fact, keep the beginning letters different if you can. If you have a Tommy, don’t have a Todd as well. Make him a Robert. Or better yet, a Roberto. And Tommy might be better remembered if he’s Tomas. Does Tomas have a cowlick? And perhaps a hook nose. Maybe he has a habit of running his hands through his hair, or clicking his fingers on a surface. And he gambles. But he’s a good guy, after all – all he wants is to help our heroine find her lost cat. As you work on the characters, you may add some subplots to the main synopsis. That’s OK! Go back and add them in.
Step 4: Scene list
This is when I begin to get down and dirty. I write out all of the scenes of my main plot, and then the subplots, and mix them like a salad. Each scene should advance the story, the character, be a bridge, or be removed. Sometimes I have difficulty, but I try. I use an Excel spreadsheet to list out my scenes. Just a short description (and often this gets cut and moved around later). I list the location, date and point of view, to help me keep track of timeline and who is currently in the center of the scene. Here is the example from Legacy of Hunger, though I’d cut out the first 10 scenes in editing.
I also use the spreadsheet to keep track of my daily word count, my themes, subplots, etc. I color each one once I’ve finished writing them.
Step 5: Writing!
Yes, it’s finally time for me to start writing! While I could, in pure time terms, write up my first four steps in about 6 hours, it usually takes a week or two, as things percolate in my mind. But once I’ve got the scene list down, I write. From scene 1. Now, this doesn’t usually end up being scene 1 in the final draft, but it’s there. Then scene 2, etc. I often move things around a bit, cut a scene, combine, add a scene, sometimes add a whole new subplot while I’m writing, but I’ve got the plan, and it’s my plan, and I’ll change it if I want, so there!
I try to set a minimum each day. 2000 words is normal for me, and I’m pretty good about catching up if I slack off one day. I’m better about writing a couple hundred words extra so if I do slack off, I’ve got cushion. Again, as an accountant, I’m all about the deadlines, so this works for me. One novel, Call of the Morrigan, I simply couldn’t get 2000 words a day out, so I adjusted my minimum to 1000 a day, and that worked fine. That novel fought me tooth and nail, but I finished. The next one (The Enchanted Swans) is working out at 2000 again.
It normally takes me about six weeks to two months to write a 100,000 word novel. As I get near the end, my daily word count increases. I’ve done 10,000 word days before, near the end. It’s like the sprint towards the finish line, no longer a measured marathon.
Step 6: Waiting
Yup! Now we wait. If you go back to edit your first draft right now, your mind moves past the bits that aren’t right, filling in the blanks with the images you have in your mind and haven’t gotten on paper. If you wait, a month, two, even six, your mind is clearer, and you are reading it with fewer preconceptions of how it should be. It is then easier for you to see your holes, your bad grammar, your purple prose, and edit it.
Step 7: Percolating
Like a good wine, stories usually benefit from sitting in your brain. You think of things. You realize that the ending scene would have much more oomph if the cousin comes to kill the evil step-brother, just as the heroine is about to shoot him, so she isn’t accused of murder. Or that the beginning scene should be of a fire in Pittsburgh, not a drawing room in Ohio. You chew on your opening lines, to make sure they have good impact and hook. You decide that the protagonist is TOO good, she needs some flaws and bad habits. I email myself these notes as I think of them, and then add them to notes in the draft itself (I use Word). Then, when I sit down to do edits, they are all there, waiting for my attention.
Step 8: First edit
This is usually when you realize the first three chapters are just story setup, and can be done in flashbacks or recalls. The real action starts in chapter 4. This hurts. Yes, it does. It hurts a lot. Those three chapters were a lot of work, damnit! But it’s worth it, in the end. Read through the whole draft. Subvocalize or read out loud, you will catch more errors. You may move entire parts around, cut out the mushy middle, make the evil twin a greater adversary, all sorts of changes. You may change characters’ names, combine two weak characters into one stronger, more detailed one. You may spend a lot of time with this edit. It’s here that you start taking that lump of clay you created and throw it on the potter’s wheel. You also want to make sure your grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. is all kosher and up to snuff. Here is a great list of self-editing tips!
Step 9: Feedback – Alpha
Alpha readers are gold. Many people call them beta readers, but really, after your first major edit, the folks that read through your manuscript and offer feedback at this stage are alpha readers. They can pick out major plotholes, inconsistencies, unrealistic characters, etc. for you. If you have someone you can go to for this, reward them kindly. Often, other authors will swap with you. AWWC has a great resource thread for readers. DON’T use your friends and family for this. They are too apt to be kind, rather than helpful. You need brutality. You need someone who doesn’t care about your precious feelings, that aren’t here to coddle your child.
Step 10: Adjusting for feedback
Oh, yes, more editing! Listen to your alpha readers. Change the things you agree with. Sometimes it takes a while to realize you agree with them. Sometimes you won’t agree with them, and you leave it in – but note that someone has a problem with it. When you have someone else read it (the more, the better!) if they also have an issue, maybe it is better to change that bit.
You may rearrange everything again. Often alpha readers point out a basic plotline hole, and requires a lot of rewriting. Don’t be afraid – do it! Then do a re-read and make sure everything fits after your rewriting. I go through and do minor edits, too – have the same spaces between scene markers, whittle down words you overuse, make sure my grammar and spelling is fixed again, etc.
Step 11: Feedback – Beta
Beta readers are a little more refining than alpha. The major plotholes should be fixed, but perhaps you’ve moved things around so that there is a time inconsistency that you couldn’t see yourself.
Sometimes an alpha or beta reader will make suggestions to make things better. You may take their advice, or you may not – that is up to you. But if their suggestions makes a huge improvement, let them know how much they’ve helped. In fact, any time someone takes HOURS of their time to help you with your novel, thank them profusely. You may want to acknowledge them in your book, even. Or send a nice gift. Even if you are reciprocating by reading their novel in return, thank them. Even if you don’t agree with their advice, or are hurt by their critique, thank them. And get over it. They are helping!
Step 12: Final edits and read-through
Adjusting for the beta reader suggestions is sort of like the almost final touches on your novel. The final ones are that last read-through. Again, subvocalize or read aloud. Polish it. Make those beautiful touches that make it shine and glitter. Then, and only then, should you consider sending it into your agent, publisher, or editor. Since I have a relationship with my publisher, I send it to her, and she sends it on to the editor.
Step 13: Wait and more editing
The waiting is hard. I shan’t sugarcoat it. Often it’s a couple months before your editor has read through the book and decided if they are willing to take a chance on it. But when they do – there is more work ahead! The editor will send back several rounds of edits. Usually the first is the harshest – lots of changes! Each one after (usually around three rounds) gets easier, until your lump has become a sparkling diamond!
Step 14: Pre-release
During this time you will work with a cover artist, and work on marketing. Your publisher might send you an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of your novel – get that thing out there! Send it to reviewers so you have some reviews when it’s released! Do marketing and promotion NOW. It’s never too early to start the buzz! If your book is available for pre-order, even better – get those people buying!
Step 15: Release
This is it, your big day! Promote and market the HELL out of it. Make sure everyone knows about it. Social media, live signings, anything you can get. Your publisher may do some promotion, but this is YOUR baby. You are the person who benefits most from this, get out there and WORK. Why would you spend months creating a novel, and then do nothing to sell it? It’s like having a child, and release day is the day you are sending it to college. You may not be doing any real work on the novel any longer, but you have to pay for college, and help support your child emotionally while they are learning to live on their own!
Chase reviews. The more reviews you have (at least decent and positive reviews) the more people will buy your book. Also, many promotions require a minimum number of reviews on Amazon to be eligible for their promotion, so court them. Go on a review virtual blog tour. Ask people to review the book. Often!
Step 16: Keep going!
The work doesn’t stop when your novel releases. Keep the buzz going. The best way to sell your novel is to release another one – so have another child. Have eight! The buzz from one will spill onto the other.
It’s a long and arduous process. Most people never even start that novel they always think they should write. Most who do start never finish. Many first drafts are sitting around, waiting to be edited. If you actually complete and edit a novel, you are special. You are wonderful. But the work never actually finishes… it just gets better!
I’ve now written two travel guides and five novels, and am halfway through my sixth. The two travel guides and one novel have been published, and a second novel is submitted for publication. I may not be an expert, but this is how I’ve done it so far. I hope this helps!
For a more extensive treatment of each step, I wrote a series of blog posts:
Come travel to the land of magic and mystery. My guide will show you how to plan your own trip, and not be a slave to the tour guide!
Come travel to the land of rugged mountains and men. My guide will show you how to plan your own trip, and not be a slave to the tour guide!
In 1968, Julie was looking for adventure. What she found instead was herself, alone and pregnant, in a foreign country. She had some tough choices to make.