Reading for a Snowy Day

The weather yesterday in New York City was great if you love snow and cold and wind and want a day off from school but terrible if you hate the snow and cold and wind and have to work from home while supervising two small children. I find myself in the latter group, of course!

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The younger and I watching the husband and elder son shovel. I didn’t want to let him outside because of the 50-mile-an-hour winds (he’s only 29 pounds)!

Being on a conference call while people are demanding juice and Peppa Pig videos is pretty tough, and trying to get through almost a full day inside with minimal screen time while you are working on your day job stuff is tougher. While I was making dinner, I had them clean up about 50 pounds worth of Legos, race tracks, puzzles, and the like. However, during the day the whole house was a minefield of toys.

But, we got through it, and today schools are open again, and while we deliberately went in late to avoid the rush, getting there was not totally terrible. In any case, I wanted to make my first book, New Blood, free for yesterday for snowed-in reading. But, in the stress and insanity of the day, I forgot to announce it. In the spirit of better late than never, it’s free today as well. Please feel free to download your copy here!

 

 

 

 

Missing both my computer and imaginary friends

If you’re the type of person who likes unfocused, general blog posts, then you will love this one!

So, what’s going on with me? First, I don’t have a computer! That sucks for anyone in general, but if you are struggling to put out the last book in an urban fantasy series, it perhaps really sucks. It’s been over a month now, and I miss having a computer a great deal. However, I just started a new job after being home with the kids all summer (read: not making money), so while I’ll hopefully have one soon, it hasn’t been able to happen yet.

Another thing: I was in two regular RPGs, and now both are on hiatus. I know this shouldn’t seem like that jarring an occurrence, but these were two people who I was very close to, and I do miss them. This happened at around the same time when I finished writing the first draft of Fresh Blood, so I also had to say goodbye to my protagonist. And for those who weren’t clear from reading above, the people I am missing are the characters I played in the games.

Thing of change the third: My older son started attending kindergarten in a public school this fall. He had previously only attended a private pre-k at his daycare. For those who don’t have kids, daycare hardly ever closes. Public school is closed all the time, for holidays I would never have off from work. In addition, daycare gets out at 6pm. Public school gets out at 2:20pm. So it was a bit of an adjustment, to say the least, with a ton of scrambling for childcare. When both parents work outside the home (and in different boroughs) and both kids attending different schools, commuting can be very difficult.

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My son on the first day of kindergarten!

So in conclusion, there have been a lot of changes lately, and I am looking forward to having things calm down a bit, if that ever really happens.

Re-reading the Vampire in the City series

Last week I finished writing Fresh Blood, the sixth and final book in the VitC series. The next day, I left for a vacation to Cape Cod. We were with family, including our two children, who are almost five and just turned one. We stayed at a house on the beach, and spent most of our time outdoors doing stuff with the kids.
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My older son, buried in sand and screaming!

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Me with my younger son, not buried in sand but screaming nevertheless!

At nights, after the kids were asleep, I busied myself with re-reading the entire Vampire in the City series. I wanted to take notes on the timeline, figure out what loose ends might need to be tied up, and just have it really fresh in my head for the edit of Fresh Blood. Somehow, I managed to finish the fifth book the day after we came back, and am now set to start on the second draft. While I don’t have an official release date yet, I’m thinking sometime around October 1st.

While I was re-reading my writing, some of it from about ten years ago, I was mostly struck with how much my protagonist has changed over the course of the series. In the first book she was sometimes awkward to the point of embarrassing me as I was reading it. By the last book she is much more sure of herself and proactive, instead of just reacting to the situations I put her in. Overall, I am pleased with this progression, and I hope my readers will enjoy the culmination of a series that has been very fun to write!

Buy quality, not quantity

This should be the end of Week 4 of the minimalist game, but I am severely far behind. I am up to Day 24 I think. Not that I’m trying to make excuses, but the past week my older son had food poisoning for two days followed by false croup for two days. I was not out of his sight for more than a minute or two for all this time, because if I was, it would result in badness. Not that I’m making excuses, but I’m making excuses. Also, the holidays.

Anyway, I have given myself up until January 23rd to complete this challenge. The remaining few days are the hardest, of course, and I’m going away on vacation that day, so I do want to be done by then. That is, as much “done” as I will ever be.

This brings me to another issue that came to my attention in this struggle to embrace minimalism. Eventually, you do have to buy some stuff. For me, the first thing I really wanted was a pair of boots. Not just any boots, but $400 Frye boots. Every time I saw someone wearing boots I liked, I noticed they were of the same make. I agonized over it for days and days, and eventually gave in and visited their NYC retail store, which is only a few blocks away from my office. I was just going to look. Yeah, right. I didn’t even believe that myself.

What happened was, I went into the store and made a beeline for the pair I had wanted, thinking they would never fit my oddly shaped feet. Well, they fit. Also, they looked amazing. And felt amazing. And at that moment, I thought my life would be complete if I could just have those damn boots.

What I would like to say now is that I didn’t buy them. But that would be lying. I did buy them, and I liked them so much, I had to wear them out of the store. And then I went home and got rid of many pairs of shoes I hated to make room for these new, wonderful boots. And as I was tossing old shoes and boots into the bag for the charity bin, I noticed that they were all cheap shoes, possibly about $40 each.

One thing that really swayed me into buying the Frye boots was a coworker telling me that they would last for ten years at a minimum. The cheap shoes I was used to buying usually lasted me about a year (and that’s being generous). When you look at it that way, it’s the same price, except the boots I bought are more beautiful, well-made, and comfortable. And of course, if I’m buying one pair of boots instead of ten, that’s nine pairs of boots that aren’t cluttering up either my house or wherever they eventually end up.

The lesson here is to buy quality over quantity. I’m trying to get to the point where this is second nature to me. This weekend I went to buy a shower curtain liner, because the $2.99 one I bought last month had already ripped. I bought the $30 one that is supposedly mildew- and tear-resistant, because those are the things that usually cause me to have to replace the liner after only a few months. Because if this one lasts 12 months even, I will still have saved money in the end, as well as kept some garbage out of the landfill.

So that’s where my head is at today. I promise I’m still working on Fresh Blood, the sixth and final book of the Vampire in the City series. But more on that on another day!

On endings; or, not letting a vampire jump over a shark

Today my new book, Demon Blood, was released for Kindle. It is the fifth book in the Vampire in the City series, and since I started writing these novels, I knew it was going to be six books. Am I excited to write the last book in the series? Yes! In fact, I have already started writing it, and in this last book, will tie together most of the loose ends and settle most of the character arcs. Am I sad that this will be the last book from Emma’s perspective? Yes, it was fun to write a character so down-to-earth but funny, and at times even clueless. But everything has to end, lest it stagnate, and Emma and I are almost ready to part ways. Writing the last book is a tad bittersweet though, but I’m sure she’ll be able to get by on her own now.

On the flip side, I am very excited to begin an entire new series. I can’t stop myself from planning it out, thinking about the protagonist, and trying to pick out a name to suit her personality. That’s one of the great things about being a writer–there are always new stories to tell!

The process of my process (editing)

In a previous post, I mentioned the process that I use to edit my books. It’s occurred to me that I developed this process on my own, in a vacuum of sorts, and I have no idea how other independent authors edit their work. So what I’m going to do is outline my process below so we can compare. I am hoping other writers will have ideas that will help me improve my process!

1) Second draft. I usually try to write the first draft fairly quickly, with little to no editing, so I like to take a few days to celebrate finishing the book, and then I go right into the second draft. This edit consists of simply reading it and polishing it up. I usually don’t make any notes or go heavily into proofreading.

2) Beta readers. I try to get around four to six people of a somewhat diverse demographic to read the second draft. Usually, I give them about a week to a week and a half to finish the read, and I include a short questionnaire that calls out items I specially want to hear their opinions on.

3) Third draft. This is when I go through the comments from beta readers and make changes based on their questionnaire responses. There are usually enough revisions that I need at least two or three days for this step.

4) Consistency check/fact check. This is hands down the most annoying step in the editorial process. I have to pick over, in detail, everything every character says to make sure it doesn’t conflict with anything they said or did in a previous book or their personal timelines. (This is especially annoying in vampire books, where characters can be hundreds of years old.) At the same time, I also check everything that happens against sunrise/sunset calendars, which is another particular step you have to take with vampire books. Is it 6:00am and the vampires are out and about? Well, that’s fine if it’s February, but if it’s April, they will be burned to a crisp.

5) Proofread. This is the very last step, and I like to let a good few days go by between this and the previous step. I try to forget everything I’ve written, and simply proofread it very carefully. I usually have one other person doing this at the same time, in the hopes that we will both find different things.

And finally, I am done! Somewhere between steps 1 and 3 I also start cover concepting, looking for images, and talking to my graphic designer. And of course, if the book is in a series (like the one I am writing currently), I will be simultaneously plotting for the next book. And thus the endless cycle of writing turns once more!

Do you have a different editing process? I would love to hear from you!

The one in which I explain why I couldn’t write for nine months

Just over a year ago, I had one of the biggest shocks of my life when I found out I was pregnant for the second time. And in those early weeks, when the belly hasn’t grown yet and there is little to no physical manifestation of said pregnancy, I actually did not believe it. Then, about nine weeks in, the extreme tiredness set in, followed very quickly by the pregnancy brain.

For those who have never experienced pregnancy brain, this is how it goes: “I am pregnant! Holy crap! How did this happen? What’s going on? I need to sleep!” These thoughts are quickly followed by somewhat of a period of non-thought, in which you may fall asleep, or simply stare blankly into space. As soon as you come out of it, these thoughts occur:  “I am pregnant! Holy crap! How did this happen? What’s going on? I need to sleep!”

Repeat this for about seven more months. I’ve even woken up in the middle of the night to pee, tried to roll over and get out of bed, failed, and then thought “Why am I so fat?” before remembering I was many months pregnant. Basically, it was a nine-month period of having no short-term memory and barely functioning as a member of society.

I’m sure there are women to whom this doesn’t happen. Those women might be able to do awesome things like hold a coherent thought, leave a room without forgetting why they left in the first place, and believe that they are pregnant and are able to make plans for said baby or even buy a diaper before said baby is born. I am not one of those women. My brain only started functioning again about a day after the baby was born, and I then had the wherewithal to order diapers and formula online to be delivered before we got home.

Anyway, the point is that even though I was about 5,000 words into Demon Blood at the end of last year when I found out I was pregnant, my writing immediately dropped off. I was somehow able to get another 5,000 words done by April, which is when I became too pregnant to function. The baby was born on July 10th, and by the end of August, the thought occurred to me that I was in the middle of writing a book.

Fortunately for me, the baby had not been informed that newborns are supposed to be bad at sleeping, so I was able to pick up writing again more quickly than I anticipated. My maternity leave was over October 2nd, and through a shear force of will, I somehow managed to finish the first draft of Demon Blood at 5pm on October 1st.

Since I’ve started writing the Vampire in the City series, I’ve been able to get out one book a year, and I realized that the end of 2014 was rapidly approaching and the book wasn’t ready yet. So from the beginning of October until now, I’ve been working on the editing of Demon Blood almost without break. (I have several types of edits I go through, and usually give myself a few days off between them.)

In short, I have given up things like my lunch hour at work, sleep, and the playing of video games, but finally, with less than a month to spare, Demon Blood is coming out on December 5th! Here’s where you can reserve a copy!

Cemeteries I Have Loved

In honor of Halloween being this week, I am devoting this post to all the cemeteries I have enjoyed exploring. And there have certainly been a lot of them!

Being that I write vampire books, it’s no surprise that cemeteries are strongly featured in them. Unless you live in New York City, and specifically the borough of Queens, what you probably don’t know is that there are more cemeteries in Queens than there are in all the other boroughs combined.

What this means is, if you live in Queens, you most likely live pretty close to a cemetery. I have many fond memories of visiting cemeteries–when I was growing up in Maspeth, Queens, my house was within a block of an entrance to the cemetery. Since my grandmother’s family was buried there, my grandma took me for walks in the graveyard quite often. Much in the way people in the suburbs would picnic in the park, my grandmother would pack us some sandwiches and we would go behind her parents’ grave and have lunch, while she told me stories about growing up in NYC in the early 1900s.

When I was a little older, it was decided by my parents that it was too dangerous to ride my bike in the park, but the cemetery, with its wide paths and infrequent traffic, was fine. So understandably, cemeteries always had a pleasant connotation for me rather than a negative one.

Below is a photo of some odd Queens magazine that features an ad for the cemetery that I used to live near as a child. Notice how they misspelled the word “cemetery” in their own ad.
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And for some reason, whenever I travel, I feel compelled to visit at least one local cemetery. In April 2005, my husband and I went to New Orleans for our honeymoon. We took the below photo at the Lafayette Cemetery No 1.
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In April 2010, we went to Paris to celebrate our fifth year anniversary. Our hotel was by the Père Lachaise Cemetery, where this photo was taken. Despite the fact that I was actually trying to be creepy, I was three months pregnant at the time and not feeling great, thus paler than usual.
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I have many more cemetery photos, but the above two are some of my favorites, taken in two of my favorite cities as well.
Lastly, in news that is somewhat related to cemeteries, I am pleased to announce the release date for Cold Blood is November 17th! For more information, plus giveaways, excerpts, and the cover reveal, join this Facebook event !

News and Nostalgia

First, a bit of exciting news: I have finished the second draft of Cold Blood, and it’s now with my beta readers for review. Usually, it’s during this stage that I write the first chapter of the next book, which I just finished the other night. I am very happy to almost be finished with Cold Blood, as it’s the only thing I’ve written so far that has given me actual nightmares. Just by my admitting that, I’m sure those who know me can figure out the particular subject matter fairly quickly! Those who don’t, feel free to guess! 

Next, a bit of nostalgic news–I just realized that it’s the second year anniversary of the release of New Blood, the first book in the Vampire in the City series. As to how many years it’s been since I actually wrote it–probably around six! It was originally written in a composition notebook and then hidden away in my desk for a few years. Then, in 2010, when I was getting rid of the desk to fit a bassinet into my bedroom, I found it. In 2011, after I had (marginally) adjusted to being a new mom, I typed it onto my computer, and finally let other people read it. The response was good, so I went ahead and published it. And today, almost four books out, I couldn’t be happier with where this little series has gone!

Everything Is Happening!

When I started working on two books at the same time, I had the passing thought, “What will happen if they both come out at the same time?” Then, the passing thought passed as I answered myself with, “That will never happen.”

 
Now, it is months later and both my charity urban fantasy anthology, Urban Harvest and the fourth installment of the Vampire in the City series, Cold Blood are both very close to being complete. I’m actually a little surprised at how far along I am on Cold Blood, but during the long Labor Day weekend, the ending became very clear in my mind, and I breezed through 10k in about three days. Since I’m working on the release and promotion of Urban Harvest now, Cold Blood will most likely be released in October.
 
So Urban Harvest will be releasing on September 22, the first day of Fall. Please join the Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/200193933487655/. Teasers from the book and other fun stuff will be going on there up until the day of the release. Also, right here in this blog, I will be having some interviews with the authors!