Help! I Can’t Stop Reading

 

I’ve always loved to read, but the older I got, the more that side of me slipped away. Homeschooling three kids, writing my own stories, and basically all of adulting, took most of my time and all of my energy. This year, though, I’ve found a decent stride with teaching the kids. They all have chores to do, so that helps with the house. And thanks to my frequently crappy health, I’m stuck resting. All of these together allow for plenty of reading time. (It may help that I have also cut out a lot of TV time too.) So far in 2018, I’ve read more books than I have the last three years combined.

What’s been my favorite? Pfft. I couldn’t tell you. I can say that the most surprising has been a gem I found on Kindle Unlimited. The Immortals of Indriell series by Melissa A. Craven completely pulled me in and I couldn’t stop reading until I tore through the whole series. Highly recommend.

What else stands out? The Heartstrikers Series by Rachel Aaron, Superpowerds by Drew Hayes, Kindling Flames by Julie Wetzel, and The Immortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare. Yeah, I know I’m late on reading that one, but it’s still awesome. Oh, and since we’re bringing up older books, The House of Night series by P.C. Cast and Kristen Cast.

I’ve read many more so far, but those are the ones that stand out the most so far (that I haven’t already blogged about). I really should try to limit my reading more and work on Lex (and for those of you following her adventure, that’s exactly what I will be doing), but balance is key. I’m sure I’ll dip one way and then the other at times, but hey, that’s life.

Later Legendary Readers!!!

In-Depth Interview With Janice Hardy!!!

Hello Legendary Readers! Today we get to have a chat with author Janice Hardy. I am totally in love with her middle grade series The Healing Wars. Her new book, Blood Ties, just got added to my TBR list as well. There’s so much I want to talk to her about, but let’s try to keep the interview simple.

Me: Hey Janice! I’m so glad you are able to do the interview. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me.

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Janice: Hi everyone! Good to be here. Thanks so much for having me.

Me: I just finished reading the first two books in The Healing Wars series, and I’m hooked. First I want to ask about how you came up with the idea for the process of healing and then pushing it into a stone. Actually, the whole process becomes even more complicated with Nya’s ability. How did you organize all of that?

Janice: Aw, thanks, so glad you’re enjoying it. It all started years ago when I was playing with the idea of twisting common fantasy tropes. I was working on a totally different book then, and one weekend I went to see the original X-Men movie. Rogue (a superhero who accidentally absorbs powers and emotions of anyone she physically touches) is my favorite superhero, and after the movie, I started thinking about healing tropes and someone who could bump into another person and accidentally heal them, pulling the sickness into their own body.

I played with the idea for a while, and even wrote a fifteen-page synopsis of the book—which was horrible (I mean, seriously bad). I stuck it in a drawer and forgot all about for maybe ten years, until I was at a conference and the presenters kept stressing how important fresh ideas were. I was sitting there with my stale, “prophecy idea #12” novel that was anything but original, and feeling very discouraged. But I went home, looked through my old idea file, and came across that synopsis.

It was as bad as I remembered, but the idea of pain shifting stuck with me. I’d never really seen any stories where healing had consequences and could be used for evil, and I loved the idea of turning pain into a commodity and healing into a weapon.

The first thing I did was develop the world. I wanted a society that bought and sold pain, so I needed a way to physically do that. Pynvium (the magical metal used to store pain) was my solution. Pain went into the metal, and the metal was melted down and forged into weapons and items that could release pain upon a magical trigger. Healing became the magic of my world.

Once that was worked out, I had to figure out the main character–someone whose healing ability was different and who would be miserable in this society (I’m so mean to my characters!). That turned out to be Nya, a pain shifter who can’t sense pynvium and can’t get rid of the pain she absorbs from healing people. All she can do it put it into another person. I loved the idea of a healer who was also a dangerous weapon.

Organizing it wasn’t too hard once I developed the world and understood how healing and pain shifting worked. But all that had to happen before I even had a story. I knew early on that until I got the world worked out, I couldn’t write the book.

Me: Are you a plotter or a pantser? If you’re a plotter, how detailed do you get?

Janice: A bit of both. I’m an outliner through and through for the plot, but I pants my characters.

For plotting: I start with a major turning points outline and figure out the big moments of the story. Then I write a scene-by-scene summary connecting those points. I update it as I write the first draft, since things change and my general concepts develop into specific actions. For example, in The Shifter, my ending was literally something like, “Nya defeats the bad guy using her ability.” That’s all I had when I started writing, but once I had half the book done, I knew how she was going to do that and updated the outline.

I work in chunks as I write the first draft, usually three to four chapters at a time. I’ll look over my outline summary for whatever chunk I’ll be working on, and flesh out anything that’s weak. Then I start writing, and often it’s a lot of dialogue and basic stage direction until I have the scenes down. Then I go back and flesh out those chapters until I’m happy with them. If it changes from my outline, I update the outline again.

For pantsing: I do very little character development before I start a draft. I know the basics, a little sense of their personality, maybe some key elements of the character arc if that’s a strong part of the book, but I don’t really know who my characters are yet. I discover that as I write them by putting them into terrible situations and seeing what they do. By the end of the first draft, I know them and a lot of my second draft is fleshing out the characters, putting in what I learned about them, and re-aligning the plot where necessary to reflect those traits and outlooks.

I always know where I’m going in a story (those major turning points of my outline), but rarely know exactly how I’ll get there. The specifics change as I write, and I update my outline as I go. And that holds true for forward and backward, as it’s not unusual for something unexpectedly cool to happen mid-book, and I realize I have to go back and lay the proper groundwork for it.

Me: I’m a middle grade author and I have a personal reason for writing for children that will one day be explained in a whole different post, but what draws you to write for middle grade and young adult?

Janice: It’s just fun, and my voice lends itself naturally to that age group (I’m a big kid at heart). But it’s also a rich source of great stories. Adventure and discovery are always right around the corner, because everything is new. Teens haven’t learned how “the world works” yet, so they have no preconceived ideas of what’s possible and what’s not. That’s a fantastic type of protagonist to write. There’s so much freedom to explore options in solving the story problem. Teen stories are also high stakes, and things matter on a more personal level to them. We lose that as we get older.

And of course, I love teen lit. I’ve always read it and I probably have more MG/YA novels on my shelf than adult novels.

Me: Congratulations on your new book! Blood Ties was just released and (of course) I have to add it to my list. Can you tell me a little about it?

Janice: Thanks! Blood Ties is a bit of a departure for me. It’s for adults, and urban fantasy, so it was fun to stretch my creative wings some. It was inspired by my husband asking a great “what if?” question on a long car trip. We kept brainstorming the concept and I knew I had to write this book. And I can’t say what that question was, because it’s a bit of a twist and I don’t want to give it away (grin).

It’s about a young woman, Grace, who has spent her life running from the monsters that killed her mother. When the same monsters kidnap her father, she knows she has to stop running and fight back, and to do that, she has to figure out why they’re after her.

It’s the first of a series, and it’s going to pair up classic movie monsters and religious mythology. I can mention book two as an example, because that doesn’t give anything away. It’s inspired by Judaism and Frankenstein, with the golem.

Me: How can I get an autographed copy of your books? Do you have any appearances coming up?

Janice: I used to have a bookstore you could order them from, but I moved to another state and haven’t found a replacement yet for autographed books (I need to do that!). But 2018 is the busiest year I’ve ever had for events, so I might be close at some point this year. I’ve already done three events, and there are a lot more to come. Here’s my schedule:

April 14: St. Augustine, FL: Florida Heritage Book Festival Novel Workshop: How to Turn Your Idea Into a Novel One-Day Workshop.

June 14-15: Orlando, FL: SCBWI Florida Mid-Year Workshop: From A-Z. Two full-day workshop/intensives. One on writing science fiction & fantasy, and one on writing the YA novel.

August 9-11: Cincinnati, OH: 10 Minute Novelists Conference. I’m also doing two workshop here: Planning Your Novel in Ten Easy Steps, and Revision Readiness: How to Revise.

I’ll be in Brea, CA next April (still working out the details on this one), and I might be in Dallas, TX in September/October 2018 if we can work out the details there.

Me: You also have a website called Fiction University. I have to admit, I haven’t yet checked it out. What exactly is Fiction University and why did you create it?

Janice: Fiction University is a site dedicated to educating writers, with over 2500 articles on writing and publishing fiction. It started out as my author blog ten years ago this month (March). Back then, everyone said I needed a blog, but I had no clue what to write about. My life was pretty boring, and no one wanted to read about me. But I liked talking about writing, so I tried that, and it worked. After a few years, the site had grown from a few hundred views a year to a few hundred thousand views a year, and I had a much better sense of what I wanted to do with it, so I changed to name and focus. I haven’t quite broken the one million views a year mark yet, but I’m close.

When it became Fiction University, I wanted to focus on education and create a safe and welcoming place for writers to share ideas and learn how to improve their writing, as well as develop their careers. I have articles for brand-new writers as well as tips and advice for career authors with dozens of books published. Traditional, indie pub, we’ve got it all. I bring in guest authors every week in both the How They Do It craft column and the Indie Author publishing column to show that not every writer writes the same way, and if one technique or path doesn’t work for you, there’s another that will. I’m very proud at what my little blog has turned into.

Me: Thank you so much for doing the interview. I look forward to meeting you again one day. Perhaps we’ll be at the same convention some time again!

Janice: I hope so! Thanks so much for having me, it was a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to chatting with some of your readers in the comments.

Well, Legendary Readers, I hope you enjoyed the interview, and if you’re interested in checking out any of Janice Hardy’s work, just click here. Next week, we’ll be taking a break from guest authors and I’ll be posting some more personal blogs. So much is coming up and I can’t wait to share!! See you next week!!

Janice: <waves good-bye to everyone>

Interview with J. B. Garner

Hey Legendary readers! So, we’ve been doing author interviews lately and this week I am glad to share my interview with author J. B. Garner!! Here ya go!!

Last week you were talking about balancing the description and plot in your book. Your post held some great advice! How long did it take you to learn how to balance and how did you know when you went too far to one side or the other?

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It took a while before I got everything just right, and to be honest, that kind of balance is a constant work in progress. Every new book and genre calls for shifts in that balance. A modern drama, for instance, might need a little less raw description, as you are dealing with real-world elements people already know, while a full blown epic fantasy might need more description, as you have to evoke the imagery of this fantastical new world to the reader.

As for knowing when you go too far, beta readers, test readers, and editors are the best way to know if you’ve gone too far. But if you have to judge it on your own, you know you’ve gone too far over on description when you reread a section and you start to get bored with it, as excessive description throws off the pacing of the plot. And you know when you’ve gone too far towards plot when you lose the ability to picture the scene and characters in your mind.

In Rune Service: Dwarf for Hire, your main character is not your typical sexy leading lady. What on earth made you think of writing Mary Stone the way you did? Do you want to tell our readers what’s so unique about our heroine?

I guess a few things inspired me. First and maybe most of all, I wanted to break the mold for both a romantic tale and an adventure tale. The fact is that anyone can find love with someone else, and I’ve seen plenty of odd couples and pairings in real life. And as for the adventure bit, far stranger people have been heroes. Why not a four-foot tall bearded Dwarf lady?

Second, I think dwarves as a fantasy race don’t get the same attention as your usual elves and dragons and all of that. I personally find many variations of dwarves to be really cool, and they speak to me. So, honestly I wanted to make a dwarf the heroine of a piece, just to celebrate that coolness.

What books or authors do you think inspired you most?

The funny thing is that I feel like any list I would write would be a horrible disservice, as I have read so many books and absorbed so much media that my inspirations are everywhere. I’d leave critical people out if I tried to make that list.

BUT for Rune Service, I can give some definite inspirations. My biggest sparks for it were Jim Butcher and the Dresden Files, for the urban fantasy elements, and the MythAdventures books by Robert Aspirin and Jody Lynn Nye, for the humorous fantasy bits. Oh, and I have to credit the movie Clerks from Kevin Smith for the idea of the convenience store setting.

What’s your favorite aspect of writing and what part do you have to fight to make yourself do because it’s just draining?

My favorite part is the middle part of each book, where I’m just writing and going and don’t have to worry about getting the initial hook of the first chapter right or finding a good way to stick the landing satisfyingly. As for the draining part, that’s definitely the first chapter! I wind up usually having to rewrite every one of my first chapters three to five times to get it just right and that just takes it out of me.

Okay, I know there’s a sequel to Rune Service: Dwarf for Hire, but are there more tales in store for Mary Stone and what is next on your list to be published?

For sure! Dwarf for Hire is meant to be a fun, on-going tale, with each book being their own individual story, so I have plenty of ideas for the future as we learn more about Mary’s past and her bizarre group of friends. My hope is to have a third book out later this year.

As for what’s next, well, I’m catching my breath at the moment, but I just put out a superhero reverse harem romance, The Miracle Touch, alongside my long-time collaborator, J. A. Cipriano, that I think is a heck of a lot of fun for those looking for action, adventure, and a bit of more adult romance.

Final request. Recommend one of your books, other than Rune Service, that you would want people to read.

Only one? Spoil sport! Okay, well, if I am limited to one, I am going to plug the oddest of my book series, one that was a true passion project. It might not be for everyone, but so far, even the person who bought it on accident and reviewed it wound up liking it.

Check out Three Seconds to Legend, starting with The Opening Bell. It’s a series I can best describe as a mix of family drama, martial arts action-adventure, and coming of age with some sprinkles of LGBT romance and Greek myth, all set in the world of modern professional wrestling. It’s odd, it’s strange, but those who do read it have always found it satisfying.

Thank you SO much for letting me interview you. I really am excited about checking out more of your stuff!

Well, until next time guys!

Special Guest: J. B. Garner

Hello legendary readers! Today, we have special guest author J. B. Garner. I recently read his book Rune Service and fell in love, but you’ll get to hear more on that one next week. This week, he’ll be sharing some seriously helpful advice on balancing your writing. And heeeeeeeere’s J. B.!

Hello! My name is J. B. Garner, author, editor, and fellow reader, living in Pensacola, FL. I hope you’re all having a great day, and I also hope you’re ready to talk writing! MeLeesa asked me if I could take a second to talk about one of my favorite topics when it comes to the art of wordsmithing, so thinking about it, I decided to have a chat with y’all about description in fiction and how we look at the world, both real and fictional. Enjoy!

As a writer, your job is a hectic one. Not only do you need to create and characterize your cast, you have to script the plot, provide dramatic tension, and so on. One of the most important duties you face is the creation and description of the world surrounding your characters. After all, every actor needs a stage on which to perform!

There are many theories and styles of writing descriptive text, too many for such a humble article as this. What I want to focus on today is the balance of description with the action of the plot. Essentially, the effect that unbalanced description and exposition can have on the pacing of your story and how to work around this unbalance in a natural way.

We all know what unbalanced description looks like. When every character is introduced with a paragraph of lovingly written description, from top to bottom and every bit of clothing, that is unbalanced. When every intricacy of the environment is laid out, that is unbalanced. When every action is laden with adverbs and adjectives, no matter how minor, that is unbalanced.

I’ve heard it said that the more senses you can engage with the reader, the more memorable your writing becomes. I don’t deny this, but it must come in a natural balance. Trying to engage too many senses at once or simply giving into purple prose causes the kind of unbalanced text blocks I talk about above. The detrimental effect this can have on your plot, especially the pacing of it, should be obvious.

Worse yet, unbalanced description is unnatural when it comes to how we perceive the real world. When you meet someone for the first time, especially in passing, do you really pay that much attention to them? The human mind loves to generalize and categorize things to deal with the amazing breadth of input our sense provide. On first sight, most things in our environment are categorized and then put into a box, then otherwise ignored until we force ourselves to focus on them.

That’s why unusual things draw our attention so easily. They don’t fit in a predetermined category and our brain sends the signals that we need to focus on this thing closely. Even on things that we focus on, data doesn’t just come in like a computer readout. Different people focus on different aspects of people and objects. Not every detail is immediately apparent or important. On top of that, the situation the observer is in dictates a lot about where his/her focus will be. A character in a dangerous action sequence will have far different priorities and focus than one sitting at a bar, for example.

You can use this naturalistic approach to description and observation to balance out your descriptions. As we naturally pick up details over time as focus and perception change, you can likewise parcel out description over a scene instead of clumping it all up in one paragraph. Consider what a character’s focus might be and use that to describe the most important details at the time, bringing the rest out as they come to the fore.

You can even use this technique to add to your characterization efforts. What a particular character sees first in another can be a clue as to their priorities, background, and knowledge. How a character sees their world can be as insightful as how they interact with it.

I hope that was helpful! Until next time, good reading, good writing, and good luck!

Wow! Thanks J. B.! I suddenly have the urge to go back and check my new manuscript to see how I’ve been ding with that. Lol.

Ok. To learn more about J. B. Garner and his work, just click here.

J. B. Garner was born in Baltimore, MD on December 1, 1976, the youngest of three children. While still young, the family moved to Peachtree City, GA. His parents always encouraged his creative side and J. B. began writing and drawing from an early age. Though considered talented by his teachers, he never fully applied himself and bounced through high school and into college at the Georgia Institute of Technology. During his freshman year, his father died suddenly.
Grief and lack of purpose caused J. B. to drop out of school. If not for a few close friends, he might have dropped out of life as well. Taken in by his friends and given a second chance, J. B. matured, applied himself, and finally, after over a decade of hard work, is now back to doing what he loves the most: writing.

Guest Blog – Lilian Oake

Hey guys!! I promised that I’d introduce you to some of my favorite authors and friends, and today is the first in the series. Today, you’ll be reading a guest post from one very talented Lilian Oake. Lilian writes a variety of teen fantasy. In fact, you’ll soon be reading my review of her book The Dragon Cager. I will also be posting an interview with her over the next week or so, but all that’s in the future. Now, I’m gonna hand over the post to Lilian as she talks about writing epic battle scenes.

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Hello readers! Thank you for stopping by and taking a gander at what the random, crazy redhead is doing on the blog of MeLeesa Swann! I do hope to impart some helpful bit of info here.

 

 

 

 One of the greatest struggles in fantasy today, is keeping the reader engaged without constant epic-battles. Yes, the reader wants to start a story with action. No one wants a new story to start out slow and boring. Yes, war does touch on the senses and brings thrill to the reader. No, war is not the only way to bring on these feelings of excitement.

Some key points about battles in fantasy:

  1. If the reader isn’t already invested in the story for a solid reason pertaining to the plot, you’re bound to lose them before you even reach the first battle. Or soon after.
  2. The battle itself has to have purpose. If you’re just throwing it in there for the sake of delivering short-lived excitement, the reader is going to get frustrated, confused, and worst of all, have their suspension of disbelief ruined. If that happens, it’s not easy to keep your reader(s), in this book, or the next.

Character development should be your main focus—besides the plot itself. When the reader is invested in your character, then any and every experience conveys emotion. You want your reader to feel like they are the character, so they feel the clenching teeth of frustration with the MC. The palpitations of excitement. The sweaty palms of shame, or the set jaw of suspicion. With that connection, something as simple as silently climbing through treetops to spy on an enemy could keep your reader delving into your books just as well as any battle would. And this will keep the reader entertained, and enthralled enough to come back for more books.

Well, I hope these words speak to someone, and maybe even helps one of you readers figure out how to work through your own fantasy-writing problem you may be having. If ever you find yourself having an issue you can’t seem to work through, talk to someone about it! (I’ll even leave you my personal email here!) Sometimes, that’s all it takes—a good chat about your book and goals with a good listener.

Lilian

Lilianoake@gmail.com

 

As always, thanks for reading, guys! To find out more about Lilian Oake, just click here. AND her book The Dragon Cager is currently FREE on Amazon Kindle, but download fast. The sale ends Saturday! I’ll be posting a review of the book SOON, so check back. 

Hugs!!