I Promise You Won't Learn A Thing From This Blog

The official blog for author Ashley Chappell. Check back every week for a few laughs at my expense or, if you know the love-hate process that is writing, commiseration.



Saturday, August 09, 2014

Excerpt from A God of Gods

It seems like every time I share a snippet of my current work on A God of Gods: Dreams of Chaos #3, it's a scene with Ali and Andi Bentley. But I just can't help it - I love these girls and, darn it, they just made me cry.

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“Really, Mona? This is what had you so upset?” Ali said, stifling a yawn as she let the lace curtains fall back over the window. Her little sister Andi was stargazing in the walled garden just beyond. “Nothing bad can happen to her in Mom’s garden.”

Mona pursed her prim mouth even tighter, turning what little color that still remained in her lips to white. “She’s been out there for hours! I’ve told her repeatedly to come in before she catches her death out there and she’s ignored me completely. It’s not proper for a young lady to be out at night alone like this.”

“She isn’t alone,” Ali said, turning back to the window with a soft sigh. Andi looked pale and fragile in the moonlight, nothing like the rambunctious twelve year-old that had just tried to scale the massive baro tree that towered over the opposite end of the mayor’s mansion earlier that day. “I told Andi after Mom died that part of her would always be here in the garden she loved so much. Now she comes here anytime she really misses her. This has been hard on her, you know. She would have died yesterday if Eric hadn’t saved her, and even without that kind of terror, today was bound to be emotional for her.”

“Today? Oh, dear, your mother’s birthday. It must have slipped my mind,” Mona said, wringing her hands under her lace cuffs. Ali knew there had been no love lost between Mona and her mother so she was touched to see such a deep regret in her eyes, even if it was swallowed by her unyielding devotion to duty a moment later. “I am sorry for the both of you,” she continued, “but she can’t stay out there all night. If she won’t come in I’ll have to get your father.”

Ali tried to smile politely, but her patience with the uptight governess was wearing thin. Mona actually had a heart of gold, but sometimes it got lost beneath her tightly corseted sense of propriety. “It’s a lovely night, Mona. Besides, my father has a city to run. Go on to bed and I’ll take care of Andi. I promise I’ll get her to bed soon,” she added when Mona opened her mouth as if to protest again.

When Mona was out of sight Ali snatched the quilt off the settee by the door and slipped into the garden to where Andi sat perfectly still, her knees tucked up to her chest and her dimpled face turned up toward the sky. Fallen leaves crunched under her feet, but if Andi heard her approach she didn’t show it. Not even when Ali draped the blanket around her shoulders.

“Hey Spunkster. Playing statue again? Hey,” she said, wrapping her arm around Andi when she didn’t even respond to the nickname she normally hated. Ali sighed and fell into silence beside her. She’d spent the day putting on a strong face for her father because she was certain he’d been putting on a strong face just for her. With her father locked behind doors in a late-night meeting and her little sister lost in her own memories, she was finally able to let the mask slip away for the first time all day. It wasn’t long at all before her cheeks were wet with tears. It felt so good to let them fall.

“I miss her, too, kiddo,” Ali said eventually.

“What if they’re not that far away?” Andi said, her gaze still locked on the sky.

“What?” Ali asked. “Who are you talking about?”

“The stars. Master Earl said that the stars are all just dreams that didn’t get to be real like us. But does that mean they’re dead? Why would Chaos dream about dead things?”

Ali inhaled sharply and made a mental note to have a conversation with her sister’s school master. 

“Well, sweetie, I don’t think they were really ever alive – ”

“But if those dreams are dead,” Andi plowed on, “does that mean Mom could be up there, too? And if we can see them, that has to mean they aren’t that far away. I could see her again,” she said, her eyes, full of hope, finally falling on Ali.

Aha, Ali thought. I should have seen that coming. She felt like she was suddenly in way over her head. What could she possibly say that wouldn’t break Andi’s heart even more? “Do you remember what Sister Patricia told us after Mom died?”

Andi nodded glumly. “That all dreams return to the Dreamer eventually, and that one day we’ll be reunited with Mom in the final dream of Chaos. But the Book of Haela says that Chaos never sleeps. How can he be the Dreamer if he never sleeps?”

“Well, he’s just – he’s not like us. He wouldn’t need to sleep, or eat, or anything like we do. Remember the Book also says that everything you see is part of Chaos. You, me, this garden, even all of those stars up there.”

“Even all of those stars,” Andi echoed, looking back up to the sky again. “Then I just have to figure out which one of them is Mom.”

Ali’s heart wrenched at the determination in Andi’s voice, bringing a fresh crop of tears to her own eyes. “I hope you do, kiddo. I really hope you do.”

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Writerly Tools: From Post-its to Final Draft

I love getting to talk to new authors and trying to help them answer the same questions I had when I first started writing novels. One of the big ones I get asked most often is about what software tools they should be using for writing. Unfortunately, that question is every bit as subjective as asking how to write the novel itself.

My brilliant and wonderful engineer husband would call me ‘artsy-fartsy’ for what I’m about to say, but it’s nonetheless true. Creating a novel is a personal journey and no one process will be exactly like another. Some writers need guided help developing characters before they even start writing, while others develop on the fly with the bare-bones plot in the back of their mind. Sometimes the problem is keeping the sub-plots in focus so the novel doesn’t end with unfinished business. If there is a problematic area in writing, you can bet there’s software out there to help remedy it.

But which to choose? Like every other process in writing, the answer to this requires loads of research into each program’s capabilities, but be careful weeding through the advertisements and the sometimes paid-for endorsements. There are endless recommendations of different writing software by authors all over the web. You can’t even go to a writer’s forum without having software ads flashing brightly across the banners these days. In terms of pricing, there is free software with limited functionality such as Storybook or you can spend as much as $250 on something like Final Draft. But here’s the thing...

A tool is only as good as the person using it.

I don’t mean anything about writing skills when I say that. I’m simply talking about dedication to the tool. Just like buying exercise equipment doesn't get you in shape if you don’t use it, most writing software requires you to be fully committed to really be effective. That means doing every bit of your plotting, writing, brainstorming, EVERYTHING in them. Most of them have libraries where you can enter every imaginable detail about your characters, world, sub-plots, etc. But if you don’t use them to the fullest you’ve wasted your time and money. At worst, the wrong software (even though the description sounded so great when you chose it) can even sabotage your work if it forces you to adopt habits that are in conflict with your writing style.

That was the exact experience I had with writing software. I decided before I started God of Gods: Dreams of Chaos #3 that I needed to get myself better organized and convinced myself that using software was somehow more professional (yes, I’ve been that na├»ve). The software I tried had the element libraries that I thought would be great to help me keep up with my 60+ characters and it used a tracking system in which every scene was written individually and the characters, locations, and dates were all recorded for the reports it would generate to show you the story flow visually. Sounds amazing, right? I did great with populating the element libraries, but when I had to start treating the scenes as individual elements I discovered it completely wrecked my sense of flow. I was no longer able to feel the motion between scenes and that led to a draft with no momentum and a feeling of disconnect between each scene. I’ve actually started the novel over twice now and I’m still struggling with getting the flow right.

Unfortunately, there's no Sorting
Hat for writers!
Since then, I’ve talked to other writers who thrived when writing scene-by-scene and a few others who came to a grinding halt with it like I did. That’s part of what makes this choosing process so very subjective. I’m all for software if it helps, but I think the idea that you have to use software to write a great book is as dangerous as telling a writer they have to use an outline when they write.

If you’re having trouble managing your WIP, try software, notebooks, Post-it notes, note cards, whiteboards, or tattoos even. Try anything. Actually, try everything. Creativity is all about being open to new ideas and resources and sometimes they can come in unexpected forms.

So I’m going to say it again, artsy-fartsy or not, but creating a novel is your personal journey and no one else’s process will be exactly like the one that ultimately works for you.

Once you’ve found that magical process, get out there and make something amazing!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Cover Reveal and Some Piratey Goodness!

One thing I love doing on my poor malnourished blog is hosting the earliest stage of book birthing: the magical Cover Reveal. If you're an author, sharing your cover with the world is tantamount to releasing that first ultrasound to Facebook and waiting for everyone to share a virtual cigar with you amid the congratulations. If you're not a writer and you find yourself rolling your eyes at this idea, let me tell you right now...

Yes. It's really that big.

Books begin life, as have so many authors, as a mere twinkle in the eye and after conception most of them even have a longer gestation period filled with with all the highs and lows you'd expect when, well, expecting. But the best and primary difference between birthing a book and birthing a baby: authors are not only allowed to still knock back a beer or three, but most of those who know us highly encourage it just to tolerate being around us.

That said, I'm even more excited to be a part of this cover reveal for author James Raney because this is the culmination of a series I've grown to love and admire. The Jim Morgan series is an incredible middle grade fantasy adventure that combines magic, pirates, and fantastic creatures with the power of friendship to overcome all odds. The first two books were pure magic, and I honestly can't wait to read the this final book!

Now that I've yammered on, here is the moment you've all been waiting for.......

******************Drum roll******************

Jim Morgan and the Door at the Edge of the World is the climactic follow up to the IndieFab Book of the Year FinalistJim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull, and the final chapter in the Jim Morgan series. Check out the first two books here, and look for Door at the Edge of the World in Fall 2014.
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=jim+morgan+and+the+king+of+thieves&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Ajim+morgan+and+the+king+of+thieves

Ta-da!!

How seriously awesome is this? Be sure to tell James what you think!

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Meet the Bentley Girls!

After months of wedding planning and crafting to keep me away from writing, I finally have my first FULL weekend of nothing to do but immerse myself back into the world of Aevum. Getting back to work on God of Gods feels like finally scratching an itch I haven't been able to reach - a thoroughly pleasurable and satisfying relief.

Of course, getting to focus on playful characters is a huge help in re-establishing my long-ignored writing groove. For those of you who've read Tilt (and for those of you who haven't, get on it!), Mayor Bentley had two daughters who were 16 and 11 then and were referenced several times in the story but were sent to Ostano with their mother to escape before you ever got to meet them. In God of Gods, the girls play a much more integral role and, I have to admit, have absolutely won my heart. I keep finding myself giving them new reasons to appear in a scene simply because they have a youthful energy that propels the story along and sometimes makes it move in directions I didn't originally intend. Ali and Andi Bentley have somehow wound me around their fingers every bit as much as they have their father and I honestly cannot wait to see where these girls lead me next.

Want to meet them? Here's a quick snippet of a scene I'm working on now set during the festivities in Sarano celebrating one full year of recovery after the Tilt that nearly destroyed them:

“Stop fidgeting, Spunkster,” Ali admonished Andi, leaning over to whisper in her ear, “people will think you have fleas!”
“Will not!” Andi whispered back, rolling her eyes dramatically. She always pretended to hate it when her big sister called her by her nickname. “And it’s not my fault. This stupid dress itches too much.”
“Mine does, too,” Ali conceded. Mona had definitely been a little carefree with the tulle when she put these celebration gowns together for the girls. Granted, in the King Jared II box, the most elite private box named for the theater’s most historically renowned patron, their fidgeting was probably more than concealed from any prying eyes. But with this being the first formal event since before the Tilt – not to mention the first official event without their mother – Ali thought it would be best if both Bentley girls were the perfect models of office tonight. Especially if Ali was going to get away with that little side project she’d bribed Mona to finish for her…
“You know what, Spunkster? I’ll bet I can go way longer than you can without scratching,” Ali whispered conspiratorially to Andi. “In fact, I could probably go all the way through the show until we got home,” she added with a shrug, as if nothing could possibly be easier.
Andi eyed her suspiciously. “You couldn’t,” she challenged.
“Could. I’d even bet an entire tray of caramel fudge taffies that I could. If, you know, you like that sort of thing.”
Andi’s eyes lit up like two perfect green moons. “Those are my favorite!
“Really?” Ali asked in mock surprise. “Well, if you can go all night without scratching, it sounds like I’m going to have to make you a tray as soon as we get home.”
“Before bedtime? Mona would have a fit,” Andi giggled.
“Then it’ll have to be our secret,” Ali winked. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Dust to Dust Cover Reveal!

Everyone say hello to S.P. Cervantes! You may already know S.P. from her Secrets of Shadow Hill Series (Always and Forever, The Prophecy), but she's stopping by today to let me reveal the beautiful book cover for her latest book. Do yourself a favor and look for Dust to Dust this spring :-)




Title: Dust to Dust (A Broken Fairy Tale)
Age group: Adult
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Cover designer: Kelly Walker

Synopsis:
If faced with your worst fear, what would you do? Would you run or would you fight?

Camryn Hamilton will fight.

A thirty-something mother of two, Camryn appears to have it all: a husband, plenty of money, and children she adores. When she returns home to spend Christmas with her family, her perfect world she has created begins to crumble, thrusting her face to face with the only man who truly knows her.

Holden Patrick will fight harder.

A powerful, handsome attorney, Holden left town after his adoptive parents’ death. In his time away he almost managed to forget the girl who ran away with his heart. At least until a turn of fate brought him back to Mantoloking, and back to Camryn.

But are they willing to fight for each other?

Faced with a tragic past that they both wanted to forget, they struggle to protect their hearts from being broken again. Will their love be enough to get them through another tragedy, or will they close themselves off and run away again?



About the Author:

S.P Cervantes lives in Orange County, California with
her loving husband and three children, where she is a teacher.
She enjoys spending time with her family, writing, and reading, but is always thinking of an idea for her next novel.

S.P. Cervantes graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from California State University Fullerton, and has a Master’s Degree in Education.

S.P. Cervantes recently has completed the second novel in the Secrets of Shadow Hill Series, Secrets of Shadow Hill: Prophecy, and is currently writing the third novel in this exciting series.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Tales From My Pub Sister

The Unstoppable Elizabeth!
Don't get too excited - this post doesn't come stocked with beer (unless you hang around for the after-party). Elizabeth Seckman is in fact the same charming lady and talented author who convinced me to go the dual publishing house route and submit a novel that didn't fit with my current publisher to World Castle. Thanks to her encouragement - and Elizabeth is one heck of a cheerleader - we now get to be publishing house sisters, along with the fantastic Celeste Holloway and so many other talented writers.

And I would be totally remiss if I didn't mention she's kind of my hero, too :-) If successfully juggling writing, mothering, wifing (yes, I'm making those verbs), blogging, sports-momming, networking, providing writer support, and marketing were an Olympic event, Elizabeth would bring home the gold. So I was thrilled when she wanted to share her journey into publishing on my blog. Stick around to the end; there's also a giveaway chance for a hand-crafted pixie by PK Hrezo!

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Elizabeth's Tale:

I figured a stop by your blog was a good place to discuss why I went small pub, considering we are now publishing house sisters and all.

Writing for me started as therapy. In 2005, my father-in-law was diagnosed with leukemia; my brother-in-law was diagnosed with chronic and possibly fatal pneumonia (he's special needs, profoundly mentally handicapped); my father was diagnosed with kidney cancer; and my brother was diagnosed with angiosarcoma. Oh, and my youngest baby went off to kindergarten.

Life felt bleak. Like there was nothing to look forward to; everything in life was a loss.

My sister's birthday approached, and I wanted to get her something special. After much thought, I sent an email to her favorite writer, Dixie Browning, and requested an autographed book. Dixie sent the book, accompanied by the kindest letter. When I gave my sister her gift, she cried happy tears.

I sent Dixie a thank you card and mentioned I once wanted to be a writer. She sent a note back and asked why I would give up on a dream...just go write.

I did. And it felt great. It was like therapy on a page. Dixie offered to read a few pages, so I took her up on it. She sent me back a letter that said something like this: Elizabeth, I have no doubt you can make it as a writer, but be warned. Writing is a big business. It's all about numbers and sales, and I warn you, it can kill the joy of it. I got so sick of hearing, add more sex, less humor. I quit and I will never write again.

And she hasn't. No amount of prodding seems to be able to make her.

Faced with this bit of wisdom, I decided to write for me. Plotting a story was a much more comforting way to fall asleep at night rather than wondering who might not be with us in 2002.

I wrote one story. Then another. And another. I'd finish and stick them in a manilla envelope and toss them on a shelf. 

Then one day, my flash drive got corrupted. I took it to my dad. He recovered my story putting it on a CD labelled, "Liz's Trash Novel". When he gave it to me, he said, "This is good, why don't you publish it?"

Because. Publishing can suck. Publishing takes a dream and beats the hell out of you with it.

Ten years later, I was perusing the net and I happened across Karen Fuller, my publisher's bio. In it she said she liked beer and NASCAR. I felt like I knew her. I mean, being from West Virginia I'm used to people who like beer and NASCAR. The way I figured it, Ms. Fuller must be good people.

So, I sent a query and a full and forgot all about it.

Then one morning I got an email..."Loved your story. I'd like to offer you a contract. Call me."

I did call and I loved Karen from the get-go. She is honest, sincere, patient, and hard working. World Castle Publishing is her life's dream and she treats her writers more like co-workers than employees. I like it there.

People ask me if I am querying an agent or going after bigger contracts.

Answer is...no decision in my life was ever based on money or power. I will never sacrifice peace of mind or the joys of my life to add more dollar signs to my account or prestige to my name.

Cause you know what they say...in the end...you can't take that with you.


Fate Intended is the third book in the Coulter Men Series.  Trip is the last of the Coulter sons to find love. He’s a handsome man with all the skills a young spy needs to succeed. But when it comes to love, he misses the target. Jane is a sweet beauty who may or may not be wanted for murder. She’s hiding out as a cleaning lady when chance brings her and Trip together. It looks like a happily ever after is in the cross hairs until reality tries to destroy what fate has intended.


Elizabeth Seckman is a simple chick with a simple dream…to write stories people want to read.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, January 17, 2014

How the Brits Bag Literary Agents.... Really!

I think the wires keep her head on.
My guest today is the lovely Alex Tanner from all the way across the pond! Alex writes gritty psychological fiction including the recent post-apocalyptic PARADISE INCOMING, the dark short COFFEE, and the upcoming TEQUILA BARTENDER. She also happens to be one of my favorite smartasses in this upper hemisphere and she's sharing her best 'tips' on how to sell your book to an agent/publisher.

I'd really like to emphasize again that Alex hails from the UK. Why? Because I'm also daring all of my American readers to try NOT reading this in a bad English accent now :-)

Cheerio!!



The Snarknado Guide to Query Letters


If you’ve written a million letters to agents or publishers, but keep getting ignored or rejected, worry not. The time of your success starts now. Read this guide and if you don’t get published within a week I will eat a selfie of Justin Beiber.

1. It’s very important that you write your letter on My Little Pony paper in gold glitter pen. Because nobody embodies ‘self respect’ like a Brony.  

2. Start your letter with ‘hey bro’, because agents and publishers love to be called bro. If you want to sweeten the pot further, sketch two hands doing a little fist bump in the corner. 

3. If you don’t have a book yet, just use someone else’s. Preferably choose a dead author’s work, like Shakespeare, he can’t sue. 

4. Don’t bother laying out the whole story. They’ll figure it out when they read it anyway.  

5. Spell everything wrong. I mean it. Are you in America? Use British spelling, they’ll love it! Better yet, switch your font to Chinese. They’ll love trying to translate it. 

6. If you’re hot be sure to attach a bathroom selfie where you ‘accidentally’ forgot that pants existed. If you’re hairy chested, shave ‘publish me!’ into your chest. 

7. Throw random punctuation at that letter like you’d throw confetti at a bride. It! Will, get; you-noticed? Trust me IMMA RITER. 

8. Attach a letter from your mom encouraging the publishers to go ahead with your proposal. If she thinks you’re awesome then you must be awesome, right? 

9. Once you’ve sent your letter, send an hourly email to find out how you did. Make sure you phone right after too, just in case. 

10. If you get rejected, send the publisher continuous Vines of you sobbing into a bowl of potato chips until they change their mind.

Okay perhaps not. Think of this as a ‘what not to do in the name of all that is holy’. If you see someone about to follow this guide, sit them in a corner and feed them chocolate until they slip into a coma.

It’s for their own good.

But hopefully, if you’ve been slaving away writing letters and proposals with no luck, this at least made you smile!

You can buy my debut novel Paradise Incoming at Amazon, or from my blog over at www.thegeekmemoirs.com