The gift of seeds


November 27, 2017  •  No Comments

Winter is typically the time for huddling indoors and thinking about roast beast and woolly sweaters. However, back in the days of snail mail, it was also the season for seed catalogues. I typically spend small fortunes (mostly mentally, occasionally literally) on all sorts of gardening toys, bulbs, books, seeds, and root stock. At the time, I even ordered rose bushes to plant in my glorious lot and a half garden with its greenhouse, asparagus bed, small orchard of trees (3 apple, 2 cherry, and a pear), grape vines, berry canes and a horseradish plant that was doing its best to take over the world. I miss that place, which has since been paved over, but I have to believe the seeds of all those plant friends are waiting under the earth for the right time to shrug off the concrete and start again. Nature is far more persistent than people who apparently hate gardens.

The cycle of the year is also persistent. Here we are again, in the quiet season when it is right to think about seeds and what we would like to plant. Sure, it’s hectic with celebrations and shopping and visiting, but in every wrap-up of the year is the germination of the next. What do we want to grow more of? What would we like to weed out? What roots need more water and what requires pruning? In the midst of all the chaos, this is our opportunity to step back and take our garden’s measure.

Sometimes we discover a volunteer plant along the way. I found the tiny seedling of my next Corsair’s Cove story almost by accident this week. It’s still tiny, but I recognized it at once. Creativity is a bit like that—a random word or image takes root and grows into something robust and unexpected. Call it a Yuletide stocking stuffer from the Muse.

 

 


Work in Progress Wednesday – September 6

Sharon Ashwood
September 5, 2017  •  No Comments

I do these (almost) weekly updates to let readers know where all my various works in progress are at and how soon they will be available. I also do them to make myself accountable because it’s far too easy to get scattered.

This week’s progress:

Enchanter Redeemed (Camelot Reborn book 4): Did two rounds of edits in very short order, which was exhausting but the book is in the can now. Release date Feb 2018

Fragile Magic: Is up for sale! My first solo indie release!

Kiss in the Dark: Is also locked and loaded and on preorder. Release date is September 30.

Kiss at the Altar: My contribution in progress, with about 2,000 words to go.

The Demon Lord of Kitty Badness scoffs at stress

The Demon Lord of Kitty Badness scoffs at stress

New projects were bumped by Enchanter Redeemed’s editing process.

Since my long weekend was all about copyedits, I took today off to get other things done. This included a wrangle with Audible and Amazon Author Central, since I had to sort out some longstanding issues with my account. And then there was updating Goodreads, my website, copyright forms, cleaning out the inbox, blah blah. I mention this because it’s the reality of the working author just as much as the writing part. The good news is clearing all that away reduces stress. We can’t all be like the Demon Lord of Kitty Badness, who mocks the stressed-out human slaves.

 

 


Tick tock


June 28, 2017  •  No Comments

Here is a lesson on deadlines and writing survival 101 aka human behaviour in action.

The challenge:  between being an adult, working a 9 to 5, launching 2 different books, social media, learning how to manage independent publishing, and maintaining minimal human contact, I got really behind on the book I was supposed to be writing. To remain on track, I need to finish draft one (75 – 80K words) by the weekend of July 1, 2017. Last Tuesday (June 20) I was at around 37.5K. I am not a fast writer. On a weeknight I’m lucky to do 800 to 1,000 words.

I’m often asked for writing advice, so I’m offering up this real life example of the one true and simple principle of writing. Writers write. They are also people and need to do other stuff, but at some point during the day they must shove everything else aside and apply fingers to the keyboard. It’s the one job that can’t be skipped. The same applies to anyone in a creative industry. Call it product creation, taking care of your main business, or cuddling your muse—all the auxiliary activities from Twitter to keeping the books don’t mean a thing without Actual Work.

If it sounds like I’m shaking my finger and scolding, it’s because I’m doing that to myself. I got distracted, fell behind, and ended up in a pickle. There is always a good reason for distractions. Often it’s practical, like getting groceries or posting a blog. That’s still not putting the story on the page and, sooner or later, a deadline looms and there are not enough words.

So then what? I had to pay the piper and burn vacation days. That meant sitting down at the computer at my usual day-job start time and working through to 10:00 pm with two meal breaks of about an hour (exception – one night I went to my regular critique group meeting).  Five days and 24K words later, I’m almost caught up. I have about 13,000 words and a week to go. I’ve done these marathons a few times before and they always follow the same pattern:  day 1 is awesome, day 2 I’m missing variety, the sunshine, and friends, and by day 5 I’m dragging every word out with tongs and hate my characters’ guts. But I did it.

And, of course, I swear I’ll fall behind like this again. Ever. Well, not for a while. Seriously.

We’ll see how long my resolutions last.

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Just another day at the word farm


May 18, 2017  •  No Comments

What happened this week?  I was minding my own business and I got an email telling me that my publishing line closed. Harlequin Nocturne, alone with 4 other series lines, is ceasing operations at the end of December 2018.

Good news: I will probably get the last of the Camelot Reborn books published. I am heartened by the fact that ENCHANTER REDEEMED stars Merlin.  If anyone can beat the odds, it would be him. Bad news:  I will have to exert effort (boo!). The nice thing about Nocturne was that they liked my stuff and getting new contracts was, for the current publishing climate, relatively straightforward.

I won’t dwell on the suckage of all this because it’s obvious. Good people lose their jobs when this sort of thing happens. Books and authors lose their publishing home. Readers don’t get the books they love.  It’s also weird finding out about something so personally impactful via a broadcast email, but that is apparently how modern life rolls.

So what is my response to all this?  I have Merlin’s book to write by deadline. I can’t allow circumstances to slow me down, mostly because I’m behind to begin with. This is publishing. And when this book is done, I have other projects on the boil. This is exactly why I have many things in play at the same time. I’ve learned my lessons.

Disasters?  Bah, I eat them on little crackers for breakfast.


Drawing breath


February 6, 2017  •  No Comments

It’s been snowing like crazy, which isn’t usual for February in Victoria. I don’t mind the weather shaking it up. The unexpected makes one look up and take notice of the world, even if it’s just the snow globe beauty of this morning, or the specter of shoveling my way around a corner lot.

tree in snow It’s a timely departure from my usual rut. I’m in that pause between writing books, if only for a few days. Last week I turned in the final edits on Royal Enchantment, and I have the next thing, a novella, already loaded and ready to hit the page. I need a breather to check the to-do list, shop groceries, make a few social calls, etcetera. More importantly, I need to erase my mental chalkboard and rearrange the furniture inside my head. One set of characters have left, and I need to vacuum before the next arrive.

But I can’t stay away from the keyboard long – I’m wired to work. February is dedicated to drafting the novella, which I expect to be around 25,000 words or basically 10 or 11 chapters. It’s part of a group project, the 4th of a set of 4 pieces. I don’t do these often, mostly because I’ve learned the hard way to look before I leap. This project is different and better, with hand-picked writers and a LOT of discussion and coordination. Which means, I suppose, that I should get started!


Blog Tour!

Sharon Ashwood
July 27, 2016  •  No Comments

I’ll be here, there and everywhere talking about ENCHANTED GUARDIAN!  Enter to win Camelot Reborn books 1 and 2 and a $50 Amazon gift certificate!
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July 27 Guest Blog

Fang-tastic Books

http://fang-tasticbooks.blogspot.com


Works in progress

Sharon Ashwood
June 27, 2016  •  No Comments

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A little more writerly advice

Sharon Ashwood
May 3, 2016  •  No Comments

Here are a few truths I’ve learned the hard way:

  • Books will complicate themselves. They don’t need help.
  • The stronger a characters’ motivations are, the less artfully constructed patches are needed to save the plot. (I was only fooling myself!)
  • If an action doesn’t make emotional sense in the real world, it doesn’t make emotional sense in the book world.
  • Ask myself if real people talk like that.
  • Being mysterious doesn’t equal good storytelling. One can’t advance a plot just by withholding information from the reader.
  • The better the actual story, the less special effects (dragons, sex scenes, gruesome murders, dancing hamsters, etcetera) are needed to keep it moving.
  • If I have to stop the action and explain what’s going on, I need to check my work.

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Keeping it simple

Sharon Ashwood
May 2, 2016  •  No Comments

You know that feeling when you first start a book? It’s like my mind is a kitten surrounded by tempting balls of yarn. It wants to pounce on EVERYTHING at once and succeeds mostly in falling over a lot. Adorable, but not that effective.

cat_yarnIdeas, characters, settings, sub plots – I love them ALL and I want them ALL in the first paragraph because I’m so excited (!!!) by the fabulous world I’ve created. Unfortunately, that means I have written quite a few openings that sucked. Fortunately, I have discovered my best friend the delete key, which means my finished books aren’t quite the unruly beasts promised by my first few drafts.

It’s all too easy to load up our openings—and often our entire novels—with an embarrassment of riches. It’s true that certain genres, like epic fantasy, usually have lots of subplots and characters, but the best examples always firmly establish the world and conflict before branching off into weaving threads of events. Many other genres, including romance, prefer only a few main story threads. Either way, good craftsmanship guarantees the reader can always follow the action without drowning in clutter. No one likes a story that requires a spreadsheet and a geomancer to make sense of it.

So, my lesson learned? I don’t need to add one idea more than what’s absolutely necessary—my stories will magically gather complications all on their own. I have to start with the bare bones if I want to end with a coherent book. Restraint and simplicity are perhaps the last lessons one masters, and for me they have been the hardest. I have a hard drive full of mangled first drafts to prove it.

Long ago, I received an excellent piece of advice.  “A woman of style will always remove one piece of jewelry before leaving her dressing table and another before leaving her front door.” While I will be the first to admit that sounds a bit patronizing, there’s wisdom in it when it refers to book structure. Sometimes simplicity is a good friend.


2016 RITA Nominee!

Sharon Ashwood
March 31, 2016  •  No Comments

Possessed_by_a_WolfPOSSESSED BY A WOLF has been nominated for a RITA Award in the paranormal category! So it’s off to San Diego this July for the Romance Writers of America conference. I’ll be part of the big Literacy Signing, so if you’re in the area please do stop and say hello.

So how did I hear the news?  I was off work for the day and in my bathrobe because it was still early here on the West Coast. When the phone rang I thought it was a telemarketer or some such, so you can imagine my surprise when a very nice person began telling me Wolf had been selected. Yes, I’ve won a RITA before but finding out you’re a finalist doesn’t get old. Trust me on that one! I had to get her to repeat everything while my brain caught up.

An award like this is not a guarantee of fame and fortune, but it is important to authors because it’s validation of one’s art. The RITA is judged by peers. There’s no “campaigning” or politics involved. It’s just whether the judges who got your book in the box liked it or not and as far as I’m concerned that’s how it should be.

I have a real fondness for Faran, my werewolf hero. Let’s wish him luck!  Maybe it’s appropriate that I imagined he was a Californian.

 

 

 


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