Guest Post/Interview: 8 Questions from Joshua Viola, IPPY Gold Medalist

I had the profound honor of reading Blue Violet by fellow IPPY award-winner, Abigail Owen. The novel is a well-written Romantic-Fantasy that’s brimming with cinematic flare. Abigail offered me a rare behind-the-scenes look at her writing process. Enjoy our interview below.
– Joshua Viola, seven-time award-winning author of The Bane of Yoto

1. Congratulations on winning your IPPY award! How does it feel to be acknowledged by literary pros for Blue Violet?

Thanks! It feels surreal. Blue Violet was the first book I finished writing. I’d tried a bunch of other times and never got past about page 100. When I finally finished Blue Violet I thought, “Yay I finished. But I’m sure it’s not very readable.” I did get wonderful advice from my editor – Wendy – that helped me get it to a better place. And as more and more readers contacted me to say how much they liked it I thought, “Maybe I can write a decent story.” The award definitely helps boost my confidence.

2. Who was your inspiration for Ellie?

No one point inspiration point for her. Friends tell me that when they read Blue Violet they hear my voice in Ellie. But I think Ellie is more confident and more cheerful than I am. In general I like a female lead who has some kick-ass elements about her. I have little (to no) patience with wimpy women who can’t think for themselves, make up their minds, or go get the job done themselves (unless there’s a back story providing a very, very good reason for that behavior).

3. I would consider Blue Violet to be, in part, a romance. I’ve always been fascinated by romantic storytelling and certainly enjoy both reading and viewing such media. And you’ve done an exceptional job with it. But for me, as a writer, I haven’t been able to find a working formula. You clearly have. Does romantic storytelling/character development come easy to you? What’s the most challenging part of writing romance?

Romance is one of my favorite genres. Having read so many of them you’d think it would be easy to write – but it’s much harder than it appears. My first draft of Blue Violet had Ellie and Alex falling in what Wendy termed “insta-love” with absolutely no build of up the relationship. To fix that I added a ton of new scenes where they interact with each other in different ways and get to flirt and talk before falling into each other’s arms. I found that made a huge difference – just having them spend time together that wasn’t making out. It made the making out later in the book feel more connected and real. Now the make-out scenes – entirely different story. Even harder to write. It’s very easy to make it to PG, or head the opposite direction and go all Harlequin in those scenes and pour a little too much cheese into it. Still working on that formula.

4. Supernatural-Fantasy plays a large role in Blue Violet. When writing my own novel, The Bane of Yoto, I considered it to be a hybrid of genres, too. I borrowed from SF, Fantasy, Horror, etc to tell my story. But at the end of the day, I always considered TBOY to be, overall, a Fantasy novel. I was surprised to learn that so many of my readers consider it to be Science Fiction instead. What do you think defines these genres and do you feel others observe Blue Violet in a different light than you originally planned?

Good question. I find that everyone has their own definitions of genres. Blue Violet could fall under fantasy, paranormal, romance, young adult, new adult, supernatural, or any combination of those. Personally I tend to think of Science Fiction as anything off-Earth or in places not very Earth-like (different alien species, planet very unlike earth etc.) which is why I’m guessing TBOY seems to fall there for your readers. Fantasy to me is more doing an alternate or hidden version of Earth (Blue Violet – humans don’t know about Svatura), or building an entirely different world that’s still very Earth-Like (Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings). Paranormal and supernatural to me both add the superpowers element to the story, although both could also go down the ghost or horror path too. So far most readers have put Blue Violet where I see it – paranormal romance, and new adult.

5. Your work has a very cinematic feel to it. Would you say film has inspired your writing process?

Thanks! You’re the first person to say that. And film has absolutely influenced me. I am a movie junkie everything from really old (and I don’t mean like 1970s old, I’m talking some of the first movies) to musicals, to classic Hollywood, to contemporary stuff. The fight scenes in my books in particular I picture a lot like watching it on a screen. I actually have a hard time reading a book if I’ve already seen the movie or TV show – even though I always think the books are better. But the images are too powerful in my head I think. To me , books and movies are both about a good story. I just love a good story!

6. Facebook has become a fantastic marketing tool when used correctly. How do you feel about social media marketing for writers?

The advent of the eReader was huge for Indie authors giving us the ability to quickly/easily self-publish with instant access to a large world-wide audience. But social media is the engine that drives readers to our books. For a manageable personal budget – and compared to the marketing machines of traditional publishers a pittance of a budget – I am able to reach more and more readers because of social media. A lot of authors don’t like the time that goes into it. And it can be a lot to manage. But as an Indie author, that’s part of the biz in my opinion. And I’ve discovered the huge bonus that I absolutely love interacting with my readers. Love social media.

7. What has been the most challenging part of self-publishing? Would you ever consider traditional methods?

Two challenges. The first is figuring out what to do and how to do it. I managed to write the book. But then I had to find an editor, come up with a book cover idea and work with a designer, publish the book, try to encourage reviews, figure social media and different ways to use those. There are still so many things I want to do – like make a book trailer. That I haven’t figured out yet. The second is the time commitment. Doing all of those jobs – mostly on my own – takes a lot of time.

I would definitely consider the traditional route. And in the fall I intend to start pursuing that avenue more seriously. Getting that professional help and extended reach to readers they provide would be great. But after having tasted the power of being the only decision maker, I will be selective about how it works out.

8. What are your plans for the future as a writer?

Keep writing and writing and writing. I am completely addicted. I have 2 more series – one a distopian, and one that’s fantasy with dragons more of a focus – that I intend to start early next year after the 4th book of the Svatura series is released. And I have a bunch more ideas for other series floating around in my head. I’d also be interested in writing with another author at some point. I see a lot of team writers out there and it seems like it would be fun to tag team a book. Hopefully my future also includes a publisher who I can work with. I’m just at the beginning of things and it’s fun to think of all the possibilities.

My Shot at a Pitch Contest (Entangled Publishing on NA Alley)

The awesome folks at NA Alley are hosting a pitch contest from Entangled Publishing.  NA Ally are a group of people who have been or are in the writing/publishing biz and who are focused on the New Adult genre. If you haven’t heard of NA, it is a genre that bridges the gap between Young Adult and Adult. This is my favorite time of life to focus on as a writer – that transition from teenager to adult.

NA Alley does an incredible job of bringing us followers a mix of articles that range from helping define the genre, focusing on upcoming writers/publishers in this genre, and even bringing in publishers in this space and giving writers a chance to pitch to them. Love NA Alley!

So a pitch contest… This was a new concept to me. As an independent author, I haven’t really started getting into the long haul of trying to get my book(s) accepted by a publisher (large or small). I do plan to make a concentrated effort in the fall after my MBA is done. On NA Ally, a pitch contest is when they bring in an editor or editors from a publisher, give you a list of rules on how to make your pitch and what they are looking for, and then they review all the submissions and pick winners who then get to submit a full manuscript. This is a great way for writers like me to know that someone is at least seeing and considering my pitch. It has “opportunity” written all over it.

Click here to see the details of this particular pitch contest with Entangled Publishing. They key part here is that I had to write my pitch. And I was only limited to 3 sentences. So what did I do? First I researched how to write a pitch. I found a great article by Nathan Bransford. The key part I pulled out of it was that a pitch should have 3 elements and go something like this: When OPENING CONFLICT happens to CHARACTER(s), they have OVERCOME CONFLICT to COMPLETE QUEST. And then make sure to add a splash of spicy to spark the interest of the editor.

After that I figured the blurb for my book was a good place to start. But – from what I can tell – blurbs should be a little more on the vague side, and pitches slightly more specific. Besides which, my blurb was more than 3 sentences so I had to re-write it anyway. I won’t bore you with the 10 different re-writes I did to create my pitch. I will say that I had my mother – who was a high school English teacher – check and make sure my very long sentences were properly structured.

Below is what I finally submitted for Blue Violet. Thanks to NA Alley and Entangled Publishing for the opportunity. And cross your fingers for me!

Blue Violet (Svatura, #1) – Pitch:

When Ellie Aubrey leaves her only remaining family and comes out of hiding after over a hundred years on the run, she knows she is risking her life, but she can’t turn her back on the Jenners, a small family of people who, like her, possess extraordinary abilities. At first she keeps her identify a secret even from Alex Jenner, though she desperately hopes he might turn out to be her fated soul-mate. But when Ellie’s worst nightmare comes true, and the Vyusher – another clan who massacred her own very powerful family of Svatura – threaten to destroy everything she holds dear, she must sacrifice herself to save those she loves most by revealing a terrible truth… sometimes not all monsters are make believe.

Not Rushing To The Finish

I am in the middle of writing my third book in the Svatura Series – Crimson Dahlia. I just passed 200 pages this week, and estimate that I have somewhere between 50 and 80 pages to go to wrap it up. That may sound like a lot, but after 200 pages of writing, 50 is a drop in the bucket. At the rate I’ve been going, it’s maybe another 1-2 weeks of writing. And I have to be careful not to rush it.

1-2 weeks is nothing compared to the months I’ve put in so far. And I have every scene mapped out all the way to the end. I just have to write them. Because I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, this is when I have to consciously force myself to slow down. It is so tempting to rush the process and just get the words on the paper to finally be done. Where I was writing 3-5 pages a night, lately I’ve been doing more like 10. And now I know it’s time to put on the breaks. Whoa! Slow down girl.

The problem is that if I write it that fast, my awesome editor – Wendy – is just going to make me go back an redo those scenes. When I wrote Hyacinth, I rushed through the final chapters initially. And I got comments back along the lines of “Having this happen off screen is very anticlimactic and makes it seem like nothing really happened.” and “I can already tell that this in an insane transition here… feels really forced.” I absolutely earned those comments because rather than really writing through the scene I took shortcuts to just get it done.

Thank goodness for Wendy who makes me go back and fix stuff like that. But wouldn’t it be better if she didn’t have to? So I am forcing myself to slow down this time, and really trying to finish out each scene the first time. That way Wendy and I can concentrate on making it that much better in editing.

So close I can taste it, but now it’s critical to really take the time to do it right.

 

Interview: Joshua Viola – Author of The Bane of Yoto

Kicking off the IPPY Winner Giveaway, I got the opportunity to interview Joshua Viola – author of the multi-award winning The Bane of Yoto  (including Gold for IPPY Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror eBook) . I started reading TBOY this week and I’ve already been sucked into the world Josh has created. Awesome to have found a great new author to follow! Get a chance to see behind the curtain a tiny bit as Josh answers questions about the book and being an author.

1. What inspired TBOY or gave you the initial inspiration?

The Bane of Yoto was inspired by a variety of different things. On the outside, it encompasses everything I liked about movies, video games and comic books. If you checked out my movie collection, you’d see some clear connections.

It’s monster movies, sci-fi and anime thrown into a blender.

Growing up I never liked reading. In fact, I hated it. And because Yoto combines so many of my childhood passions, I wanted to write a story that I think the youth in me would love. Something people who don’t necessarily like to read might enjoy. That being said, it certainly isn’t a book for kids. It’s ultra-violent, scary at times and deals with some very serious adult situations.

Now, at 30, I read all the time. And there’s certainly been some characterizations I’ve really admired in other literature (Ender’s Game comes to mind) that I’ve tried to replicate in certain ways.

But when examined under a microscope, The Bane of Yoto is a story about two brothers: Yoto and Eon. It analyzes their struggles and what brotherhood really means to them. In that regard, the book is about the relationship I have with my own brother, Cody.

2. How would you classify TBOY and what other books do you think its similar to?

I would classify The Bane of Yoto as a Science-Fantasy novel. It definitely has science-fiction elements: it is about two alien species on an alien planet. There are no humans to be found in the story.
But it also has a heavy amount of fantasy. There’s magic, witches, medieval-like settings, etc. The main plot focuses on a character who is stabbed in the chest with a mythical dagger. And rather than perishing beneath the blade, it transforms him into a god.

As my friend JC Hutchins, author of the 7th Son series, once put it: It’s Conan the Barbarian meets Star Wars.

3. I love the words you’ve created – all the names of people and places and things in this new world. How did you come up with them?

Thank you. Most of the naming conventions have meaning behind them. When I first came up with the story eight years ago, I was very much into anime and Japanese culture. The name “Yoto” came from Kyoto, Japan.

Other names, such as Eon, was inspired by a Celldweller song. Celldweller is a one-man band whose music is featured in numerous films, TV and video games. Celldweller also owns my publisher, FiXT, and his music is in my free Bane of Yoto 3D comic app for iOS ( http://bit.ly/zstjnZ ). I was a fan of his music long before FiXT published my book and I named the character after one of my favorite Celldweller tracks: Eon.

4. What are your favorite characteristics of your hero – Yoto?

I can’t necessarily identify a favorite characteristic. In a lot of ways Yoto is very unlikeable. At least in the beginning. He is the representation of myself and my struggles. I wanted to be honest and put those feelings on paper.

What I find more interesting is his journey. Yoto’s growth fascinates me. His ability to better himself and put others first. And I hope that, too, reflects some of me.

5. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in book?

I wouldn’t change the story, no, but I’d probably develop more scenes and characters – and likely trim a lot of fat.

6. What was your favorite part of writing TBOY?

The writing process was fantastic. TBOY was the first book I’d ever written and I learned a lot from it. It was amazing watching the story blossom before my eyes. Writing is an evolutionary process and that really fascinates me.

But what I’ve enjoyed more than anything else is the response from fans. It has been very rewarding hearing from people around the world who’ve embraced the crazy ideas I had floating around in my head. I can’t thank them enough for that.

7. What are you working on now?

I’m currently writing a novel for Celldweller, inspired by his “Wish Upon a Blackstar” album. The book is called “Blackstar” and “Act One: Purified” will be available this summer. The book will also be simultaneously released with a soundtrack by Celldweller.

You can read more about it here: http://bloody-disgusting.com/news/3220840/celldweller-plans-new-music-book-series-and-more/

And watch the trailer for it here (scrub to 0:52): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jMzbtNE2e0&list=UUpDmAxyuLoNrP-cek8tEfrw&index=5

Official synopsis: Rezin doesn’t know who he is or where he came from. He only knows one thing: how to scour. His combination of gifts and abilities allow him to scour any system, and steal information to sell to the highest bidder.

Scouring provided Rezin a luxurious lifestyle, but he wished for something more – until the day he stole secrets from Re:memory, the public storehouse of the forgotten past. Secrets controlled by Kaine, leader of the reborn world and the mega-city Central.

Rezin had stolen from Re:memory before, but not like this. Something came into him. Something entered his mind, took up a place in his thoughts, and gave him unknown powers he doesn’t know how to control. From the instant the darkness entered him, Rezin found himself driven from the comfortable life he carved out for himself in Central.

Forced to flee into the dangers of the Outlands by Kaine and his Scandroids, Rezin encounters the mysterious twins Vray and Bastian, as well as the tough and defiant Elara. Together, they begin the journey that will reveal the true nature of what occupies Rezin’s mind. A journey that will take them into the universe of the Blackstars, to the living world of Scardonia, and face to face with Kaine — and ultimately, Rezin’s own nature.

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BlackstarNovel?ref=hl

8. Any advice for other aspiring indie authors?

My only advice would be to write for yourself.

After I finished my first draft of the Yoto manuscript, I was talking to a major publisher – every writer’s dream. Unfortunately, they wanted to make drastic changes to the story. I considered it, at first. But as the opportunity grew nearer, I just couldn’t do it.

I started writing the book to tell the story I wanted to tell. And that is when I decided to pass and look elsewhere.

That led me to FiXT. A music label who was interested in diving into new forms of media and Yoto fit the bill. They allowed me to keep the story in place as I had planned. The book released and went on to win six awards since its release last year. It also spawned a 3D comic app that currently has a solid five-star rating and 100,000 downloads.

So again, my advice, write for yourself.

IPPY Winners Giveaway Package!!!

UPDATE 6/20/2013
And the winners are… 

****
5/19/2013
The 2013 IPPY Gold, Silver, and Bronze medalists for Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror eBook are coming together for one massive giveaway. Hold on to your seats, folks, cause this is gonna be awesome!

2013 IPPY Medalists:
Best Sci-Fi / Fantasy / Horror eBook

  • Gold: The Bane of Yoto by Joshua Viola
  • Silver: Queen and Commander by Janine A. Southard
  • Bronze: Blue Violet by Abigail Owen

Giveaway:

Grand Prize Package (1 Winner):

  • 1 Kindle Paperwhite
  • 1 bundle of the 3 IPPY winners eBooks (The Bane of Yoto, Queen and Commander, Blue Violet)
  • Bane of Yoto Pack! (Celldweller CD, 2 t-shirts, 1 scultpure, 1 USB drive with PS3 Dynamic Theme, assorted posters, audiobook download link)
  • 2 Queen & Commander Posters — Two full-size posters of the two book covers
  • Paperback Madness! Blue Violet and its sequel, Hyacinth, plus Queen & Commander


Runners Up (5 Winners):

  • A 5 Pack eBook Package (Kindle Format) with the following books:
  • The Bane of Yoto (Gold Winner)
  • TBOY – Bloodmoon: Birth of the Beast (Pre-quel to The Bane of Yoto)
  • Queen and Commander (Silver Winner)
  • Blue Violet (Bronze Winner)
  • Hyacinth (Follow-on to Blue Violet)


We’d like to say a huge THANK YOU to FiXT who are donating many of the prizes and helping promote the Giveaway Package. (See below for more info on FiXT!)

How to Play:

The Rules:
Entering to win is so easy! All it takes is participation. There will be a drawing on June 20th for the Grand Prize Package and Runner Up Prizes. Your name will be entered for every point you earn. The more the points you have the better your chances of winning!

1. Giveaway is from May 20th – June 20th. Last chance to enter is 11:59pm PST on June 20th, 2013

2. Click the below Rafflecopter link and click the links to participate and enter your points.

RAFFLECOPTER – CLICK HERE

3. Collect points each time you do any of the following:

  • 1 Automatic Free Point for Entering
  • Buy a Winning Book

 

  • Review a Winning Book (The Bane of Yoto, Queen and Commander, and/or Blue Violet)
  • Like a Facebook Page

 

 

  • Post a link to the Giveaway on Your Facebook Page
  • Tweet about the Giveaway
  • Follow on Twitter

 

  • Janine A. Southard – @jani_s
  • Abigail Owen – @AOwenBooks
  • Join an Email List/Newsletter (click the link on rafflecopter)
  • Janine A. Southard
  • Abigail Owen

The more points you have, the better your chances of winning!

3. Last chance to enter is 11:59 on June 20th.

4. Grand Prize Package winner and runners up will be notified/announced by 8pm PST June 21th, 2013!

Good luck folks and have fun!!!

About the IPPY Winners:
Curious about the three winners of the Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror eBook at the 2013 IPPYs? All three winners will be interviewing each other during the month of the giveaway – so look for those posts to learn more. Until then, here are some details about the winning books!

GOLD: The Bane of Yoto by Joshua Viola
Publisher: FiXT

Some say the Arbitrators existed long before the world was born. Others believe their dark powers spun the fabric of time itself. They are mystery.

But here is truth: After ages of formless existence, the Arbitrators craved physicality once more. In their search for a worthy body to inhabit, they destroyed the world Ajyin – home of the gentle, blue-fleshed Numah and the combative, carapaced Olokun.

But not all was lost. General Vega and his vile Olokun warriors enslaved the remaining Numah. They relocated to Neos, Ajyin’s thriving moon.

There, under Vega’s imperious rule, the Numah toiled to extract minerals for a defensive barrier called the Aegis Shield. It would protect Neos from the Arbitrator’s return, the General vowed.

However, the Arbitrators’ hunger sparked a great fire – a blaze of revenge and revolution that soon found its home in the heart of Yoto, a weak and cowardly Numah. Now Yoto’s days of cowardice are over. He is transformed, a powerful and dangerous being beyond Vega’s control …

… And the Arbitrators’ dark presence haunts the world of Numah and Olokun once more …

SILVER: Queen and Commander by Janine A. Southard
Self-Published

On a world where high school test scores determine your future, six students rebel. They’ll outrun society as fast as their questionably obtained spaceship will take them.

Rhiannon doesn’t technically cheat the Test. She’s smarter than the computers that administer it, and she uses that to her advantage. She emerges from Test Day with the most prestigious future career possible: Hive Queen.

Gwyn & Victor are madly in love, but their Test results will tear them apart. Good thing Rhiannon is Gwyn’s best friend. Rhiannon can fix this. Queens can do anything.

Gavin is the wild card. Raised off-planet, he can’t wait to leave again… and he’s heard of an empty ship in orbit. The Ceridwen’s Cauldron.

Both Luciano and Alan fit in the system. They don’t need to leave. Only their devotion to Rhiannon spurs them to join the Cauldron’s crew.

Spaceships. Blackmail. Anywhere but here.

BRONZE: Blue Violet by Abigail Owen
Self-Published

When Ellie Aubrey leaves her only remaining family and moves to Colorado, she knows she’s risking her life. But she can’t ignore the possibility of what she might find there. What she didn’t expect to encounter was a bewildering connection to one smolderingly sexy Alex Jenner. But when Ellie’s worst nightmare comes true and threatens to destroy everything she holds dear, she must fight to save those she loves most. Even if it means sacrificing herself by revealing a terrible truth… sometimes not all monsters are make believe.

Exceptionally imaginative and magically romantic, Blue Violet delivers equal parts fantasy, romance, and suspense.

About FiXT:
Website: http://www.fixtonline.com/

FiXT is an American independent media company with several divisions including a record label, an online music store, a film/TV/video game music licensing arm and a publisher. FiXT entered the publishing world with the six-time award-winning novel The Bane of Yoto and its prequel Bloodmoon: Birth of the Beast.

FiXT was founded and is owned by Klayton, a musician most known for his Electronic Rock project Celldweller. Personifying the sound of the iPod generation, Klayton creates a hybrid fusion of digital and organic elements: intricately designed soundscapes that take cues from electronic genres like drum ‘n bass, electro, and dustep, woven together with aggressive rock/metal and orchestral elements. Celldweller ignores genre boundaries and stylistic confinement and the end result is a pioneering vision of the future of electronic music.

Klayton is also known for his collaboration with illusionist Criss Angel, as well as his numerous audio features in films such as Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Real Steel, Battleship, Iron Man and Spiderman. Klayton is teaming with Joshua Viola and Keith Ferrell to release a book and soundtrack this summer, titled: Blackstar.

Blue Violet Wins Bronze at the IPPYs!!!

I am thrilled to announce that Blue Violet – my debut novel and the first book of the Svatura series – won Bronze in the Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror eBook category at the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPYs) for 2013!!!!!

I am beyond thrilled and honored to have placed!

Click here to see more details: http://www.independentpublisher.com

Almost 2,500 independent authors and publishers participated, submitting over 5,300 entries this year. IPPY gold, silver and bronze medallions are awarded in 77 national, 22 regional, and ten e-book categories. Per their press release… “Conducted each year to honor the year’s best independently published books, the “IPPY” Awards recognize excellence in a broad range of subjects and reward authors and publishers who “take chances and break new ground.” Independent publishers, along with independent booksellers, have long held an important role in the world of books, offering an alternative to “the big five” conglomerated media publishers.”

The IPPYs is the first writing contest I have ever entered. I had received good feedback from a majority of readers of Blue Violet since I released it in August 2012 and thought I’d take a shot. As I researched writing contests, I discovered that they are very competitive, and also very pricey. For each contest, you can enter your book in multiple categories. But for each category you pay between $50 and $100. That adds up fast. So I was very selective with the contest I decided to enter.

After quite a bit of research, I decided to enter one category in the IPPYs. I debated between entering print or eBook. I also debated between entering Blue Violet – a paranormal romance – in the Fantasy, Romance, or Young Adult category, or in general fiction. Finally I decided on Fantasy eBook, feeling it was the best fit for my book.

And I won bronze!!!! I can hardly believe it. Cloud nine doesn’t even come close. I would like to thank the judges for this honor. I would also like to congratulate all the other medalists including my fellow category winners Joshua Viola and Janine A. Southard!

 

Taking the Risk to Stop and Re-Write

I am almost half-way through writing the 3rd book in my Svatura series – Crimson Dahlia. Over a hundred pages in, I was getting a feeling that I wasn’t entirely satisfied with where the book was headed. While I have some specific plot points in mind when I write, how I get there is a revelation to me – almost as much as it is to my readers sometimes. It took me a while to put my finger on what was bothering me, but when I finally did, I knew it meant making a tough decision.

My goal is to publish Crimson Dahlia by the end of August of this year. It’s a bit of a tight deadline, but doable. I’ll admit I was falling slightly behind, but nothing that couldn’t be caught up. And then I realized that I needed my two main characters – Lila and Ramsey – to spend a lot more time together than I had written up to that point. And that’s what was bugging me.

I can see how I fell into this trap. Hyacinth ends with (SPOILER ALERT) Lila being kidnapped. And so Crimson Dahlia must – naturally – start with her and Ramsey separated as he struggles to find and rescue her.So not a lot of direct time spent together up front. I started thinking that to fix this issue I just needed to go back and add a scene here or there – perhaps some flashbacks of Lila and Ramsey together. But I realized that wouldn’t be enough.

That’s when I made the tough decision. I had an idea of how to get them together more, but it was going to require a major rewrite of what I’d already finished. The dilemma this poses is the threat to my release timing. I work full time and am wrapping up an MBA degree. Not to mention I have kiddos. So I have a limited amount of time to devote to writing. But I knew it was the right thing to do. Thankfully, feedback from my readers to my announcement of this has been so supportive of whatever I decide to do. (Thank you!!!)

I’m not, by any means, throwing everything out the window. I actually really like everything I’ve written so far, but it wasn’t headed in the right direction. I’m just taking those previously written scenes, putting them back in around newly written scenes, and adjusting them to fit the new direction.

I’m still mid-rewrite. Ask my editor – re-writes are a bit of specialty for me. I do better with 2nd drafts than with first drafts. So it’s going fairly quickly. I’ll know in about a week if this re-write slowed me down too much, or if I’m still on track to my August release goal. I will say that already I’m much, much, much happier with how the book is headed now. So the re-write was well worth the effort and time. Hopefully my readers will think so too. (Fingers crossed for August.)

Svatura Book #3 – Title Contest Winner

At the beginning of April I started the “Name the Next Book in the Svatura Series Contest“.  The books in the Svatura series all have a flower for the title. As part of the contest I included some very specific guidelines to select the flower for the title/cover:

1. The name of the flower would work as a cool book title
2. The flower would look good on the book cover
3. The flower name isn’t hugely common as a book title already
4. The flower meaning fits for Lila & Ramsey (the two characters who will be the main characters for the 3rd book)

Also, I was looking for something that would fit with the previous two books…

Book #1 is titled Blue Violet. The flower is beautiful. The meaning of the flower – watchfulness, faithfulness, I’ll always be true – works well for the theme of the first book and the main characters, Ellie and Alex.

Books #2 is titled Hyacinth – which I love the sound of. The flower is also lovely – we ended up using only one bloom from a stalk for the cover. The meaning of the flower is – dedicated to Apollo, loveliness, sorrow – which was perfect for the theme of the book and the main characters, Selene and Griffin.

For book #3 I had a few ideas in mind, but nothing that really jumped out as perfect. I opened it up to my readers who responded with an awesome list of ideas – about 20 in total. I had a very difficult time narrowing it down to only 4 favorites. Finally I selected the following options:

– Lisianthus
– Crimson Dahlia
– Heliotrope
– Delphinium

Over the last few weeks my readers have been voting on their favorites. With over 100 votes in, the winner received 70% of the votes. I am very excited to finally have a title for the 3rd book in the series! I already have my graphic artist working on the cover!

Without further ado, the winner is…

CRIMSON DAHLIA

Submitted by: Annayanna Haldar
Meaning: diversity, elegance and dignity, a warning, change, travel or betrayal
More Pictures: click here

Congrats Annayannna! As a reminder, the winner of this contest receives the following:

Goody-Bag of Prizes:
– A $25 Gift Certificate for Amazon.com
– A FREE autographed print copy of BLUE VIOLET & HYACINTH
– A FREE digital copy of BOOK #3  prior to release
– A thank you in my acknowledgements section of Book #3

A huge thank you to Annayanna and everyone who submitted an idea or voted!!! My readers are the best!

I Thought I Knew What Busy Was…

Just this weekend, I finished my last class for my EMBA degree. While I still have to do a final project, I am done with classes! This really struck home today when I realized that I didn’t have a couple hundred pages to read for the next class that would start up this coming Friday if I was still in class. So WAHOO!!!!

It has been a crazy year, possibly the busiest of my life. So I’ve been reflecting on what “busy” has been for me over the various phases of my life.

I thought I was busy in High School. In addition to classes, I was very involved in extracurricular activities… band (yes I was a band geek), various clubs many of which I lead by the end of school, and of course social activities with friends. I understand that High School students these days are busy on a whole new level.

I thought I was busy in College. Classes of course. And I worked – initially as a waitress and then later on campus. My weekends were consumed with skydiving in some way, shape, or form – we competed in collegiate team competitions. And, also of course, all the social stuff.

I thought I knew what busy was when I was in my twenties. Fresh out of college, first years in a job where suddenly I didn’t have summer or Christmas breaks. I filled my evenings with everything from movie nights, to girls nights, to Bible studies, and training for triathlons.

I thought I knew what busy was when  I married and moved to California. I started working as a business analyst for a tech company and discovered I loved it. I devoted more and more hours to my work.

We had our lovely children fairly soon after our move to California. Children are a whole separate level of busy – in a very different way. Just getting through the day with all of us fed, bathed, and transported to and fro at the right times is a challenge in an of itself.

In August of 2011, I decided to add an EMBA degree to the mix, and my saint of a husband was very supportive. I participated in an accelerated program that is 15 months – 12 months of classes and 3 months of a final project. And busy hit a new gear in 2012 when classes started. And once I was there, I think I hit a point where I was so busy that it turned into “well what’s one more thing.” So June of 2012 I decided to self-publish my first novel.

My MBA classes are now completed. For anyone ever considering a secondary degree I highly recommend it. My college experience the second time around was much different from the first. My goals, perspective, experiences at 35 with kids, a husband, and a high powered job, were all very different from when I was 18. I loved every single second of it.

Many friends and family have asked what I intend to do with all that time I’m getting back. It is honestly difficult to remember what my life was like before my MBA started. My plan is to invest that time back into my family and really enjoy them – they are a blessing. And I can’t wait to see what this next phase of my life may bring. What will be my new “busy”?

The Importance of a 3-D Villain

I recently have been engaged in a dialogue with fellow writer Kate McMurry (katemcmurry.com) that I’ve found so interesting – and relevant – that I thought I’d share a bit. Kate brought up the importance of the villain and postulated that a hero (and a story) is only as good as the villain and the antagonism they provide.

So the question becomes how do you create a solid, 3-dimensional villain?

Key – Motivation
Kate had an excellent point that establishing a believable and compelling psychological motivation for the villain can help a lot with answering that question. Thinking about it I absolutely agree with her that it’s difficult to accept a villain who’s evil seems to just spring out of nowhere with no catalyst. You could go the route of writing a villain who is inherently evil. And many writers do. I’ll absolutely admit to doing this and think that it is fine up to a point. For example – in my first book the antagonist(s) are a bit of a mystery that won’t get solved till later books. But even if the villain is a true psychopath, their history is usually explained.
Example – Magneto

An example of a well developed villain is Magneto in X-Men. I think that he is a more compelling villain because of his history. He was a Holocaust survivor and therefore a firsthand witness to genocide. As a mutant (therefore outsider/threat), he’s now in the same precarious position. Of course he wants to destroy the perceived threat to him that humans pose. And isn’t it even more delicious (in a horrifying sort of way) that his methodology is to try to exterminate them? Very similar to when the abused becomes the abuser. Magneto’s psychology and history make his threat seem more real, more dangerous, because it’s such an ingrained belief and fear you know that he won’t stop.

The timing of this conversation with Kate couldn’t have been more perfect. I am in the middle of writing the 3rd book in my Svatura series, and I’m struggling with getting enough tension and forward motion into it. I think giving my villain(s) a compelling back story and bringing them to life a little more is exactly what I needed.  I’m still satisfied with how they’re written in Books #1 and #2 where I could leave them a little more on the mysterious side while I introduced the protagonists and the overall back story. I even have a little back story around the villains in there. But not enough. Now it’s time for some serious villainy.
Kate has given me a great start. She also happens to have been a psychologist and has given me a lot of great material to read through and pull ideas from. Since my characters are old as dirt in many cases, I also plan to research the history and psychology of their times and incorporate that as well. This was just the kick in the pants I needed to take the series to the next level!
**Picture me rubbing my hands together in anticipation. Can’t wait to warp (yes, warp – this is evil we’re talking about) my imagination around this.**

Note: Magneto picture from Flickr. Attribution: PatLoika