Welcome to 2020!

Happy New Year!

Normally I write this post prior to the holiday, but a bout with the flu bug held me back and I refuse to feel bad about it. Just seems counterproductive to start the year out with regrets, especially when you can’t anticipate getting sick over Christmas.

So! It’s time for my regularly scheduled road-map review and prep.

I had a lot of ambitious ideas for 2019 but in the spirit of letting things go and moving forward, I’m just going to pat myself on the back for getting the following things done:

Completed Melody of Bones. Also known as The Thirteenth Month.

The second draft of this novel stands at over 110,000 words and while that isn’t terrible for a fantasy novel, I’m going to be shaving that number down. I hope. I will also be drastically altering the story, tightening the plot, and combining characters to make for a less sprawling narrative.

BEGAN “A WEREWOLF WEDDING” NOVEL

This is a guilty pleasure. Nora Grayson, marital counselor to the supernatural, is a great deal of fun. Her novel isn’t completed yet, but if I continue with my current pace it should be finished by the end of April.

WON NANOWRIMO WITH “EVERY PRAYER BUT ONE

This novel kicked me in the teeth in September and has consumed much of my attention. It is nearing completion, but work has slowed down some due to complex emotional stuff in the novel that needs to be appropriately handled.

SUBMITTED, SUBMITTED, SUBMITTED

I was also terribly brave this year in that I submitted my completed works to a number of places. One of which is still considering a novel that I promised to have out by the end of 2019, but since it is in limbo that obviously didn’t happen. You can expect more announcements about publication dates and whatnot in the coming months.

So… What’s penciled in for 2020?

Things on the writing front have slowed down a good deal due to the day job’s demands, but I have found a comfortable regime and will continue to toss novels out into the wild as they are completed and/or picked up by publishing places.

My new regime calls for working on multiple projects at the same time. Basically, one novel in edit phase and one in drafting phase to exercise two parts of my brain. I’ve done this before and it was working well. I can’t remember why I changed it.

I’m not sure why anyone other than myself would find this interesting, but if you’re an author and you’re looking for a way to organize your writing time, then maybe this can help you. Please keep in mind that life has a way of altering plans, much like a novel has a way of breaking the author’s carefully created outline, so all of this is a loose projection at best.

January – March

DRAFT – Every Prayer But One

EDIT – Melody of Bones

April – June

DRAFT – Werewolf Wedding

EDIT – Castle of Three Kings

July – September

DRAFT – Inmate

EDIT – Every Prayer But One

October – December

DRAFT – City of Cemeteries

EDIT – Werewolf Wedding

That’s it. That’s what I want to accomplish on the writing front.

Now, on the personal front… I have challenged myself to 365 acts of kindness through 2020. Big or small, for whoever I see needs it, I am going to consciously and actively seek out ways to help the people around me. I’ll be recording this on Twitter, so if you want to follow along, you’re welcome to at my handle @AJMaguire

Oddly Terrifying – November 2019 Round Robin

Faxon Mylonas showed up in my debut novel Sedition smelling of pipe-weed and lurking in the shadows around Kiavana Fortress. He was, on first blush, an assassin and a mercenary, and I only grazed his character in that novel.

That in itself might not qualify him for the strangest character I have ever written, but when I started Usurper – the third book in the series – I was suddenly thrust into his point of view and learned something very quickly; he is a little crazy.

Or a lot crazy.

It depends on what mood you catch him in, I suppose.

Which I admit made for some fun scenes. Here, let me show you…

He could throw his stiletto at her, the one located just under his right sleeve. It was the same weapon he’d used to pin Troy down, so it hadn’t been properly reattached yet.

Was his name Troy? Faxon hadn’t been paying close enough attention to their names to know for sure but he was mostly certain he had it right. It started with a “T”, that much he could remember because he’d immediately associated the boy with Trenna out of sheer laziness.

Troy and Trenna, he thought. Double Ts.

Troy and Trenna tried traipsing through town with a trembling, troublesome troupe. Terrified travelers trumpeting their… Gods, he needed to stop.

Like I said, fun. His boredom led to several observations that any other point of view character wouldn’t have seen, and while I’m worried what it means that I have such a criminally-minded and brutal character sprouting from my subconscious, the novel is richer for his insights.

Check out what bizarre characters my fellow authors have dreamed up in this month’s Round Robin!

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
(YOU ARE HERE) A.J. Maguire  https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1LT
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

When Crap Hits the Fan – October Round Robin

It seems that no matter how much planning I do, no matter how many times I revise an outline, the novel never goes my way. (FYI- Spoilers Inbound.)

For instance, if I’d had my way then Johnathan Relo of the Tapped series would have died already. If you’ve read the novel then you know that didn’t happen. It seems the stubborn man refuses to go quiet into the night, which I am grateful for because he brings a lot to the table in the second novel.

For my newest release – The Haunting of Tessa Pines – the entire plot of the novel was altered right around the 1/4 mark of the story. This was my second attempt at writing a straight forward romance novel and I utterly failed.

My first attempt at a straight-up romance novel was Witch-Born. In that case, my Robin Hood flavored romance became a steampunk fantasy where witches are nobility and nature itself is trying to consume the world.

So what happened with Tessa’s book?

Well, a lot of things. Tessa as a character was originally meant to be in my dragon vs. vampire novel. I even outlined that entire novel with Tessa falling in love with a dragon and having her friends put in danger because of it and sweet mamba jamba, can I tell you how many novels/stories are EXACTLY LIKE THAT OUTLINE?

To be fair, I was studying what works. Those are the stories that make headlines, after all.

But I didn’t write a single word after finishing the outline.

I sort of stared at the page with a dismal understanding of how the formula works and zero interest in putting it to use.

As an author, I can admit to having no desire for writing a novel with a formula in mind. It’s just one of those things I learned about myself in the process of creating this book. That isn’t to say that I don’t adhere to story structure – formula and structure are not the same thing – but I digress.

Because I was plotting Tessa’s novel for National Novel Writing Month that year, I tossed the original outline and went to an outside source for help – my (then) boyfriend. He’s now my husband, so I have fond memories of working the new outline with him.

Together we plotted a story about a paranormal investigation gone wrong, with a romance woven through. The original is vastly different from the finished product, but that seems to be the way of things. In any case, the book is a testament to how a writer’s life affects their fiction.

Take a look at what stories have morphed into with my fellow authors!

A.J. Maguire  https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/ (YOU ARE HERE)
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Margaret Fieland http://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
Dr. Bob Rich  https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1JS
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobincourtright.com

The Work In Progress – July 2019 Round Robin

Anyone who knows me will tell you not to ask about my writing work. The moment you open that can of worms you’re in for at least twenty-minutes of me talking. I try to limit myself to twenty-minutes anyway, it’s more likely you’ll be stuck listening for longer.

But I think I’m in good company. Many authors love to discuss what they’re working on because it helps us to work through plot issues that we otherwise wouldn’t see.

Which is why I’m tickled that this month’s Round Robin is about what our current works in progress are and if we have any additional novels planned.

So! What am I working on?

Well, I was supposed to be using July’s Camp NaNo for my romance novel following Nora Grayson, martial counselor to the supernatural in Boston. BUT… my Muse woke up and told me that I absolutely must finish the dragons vs. vampires novel already started.

I started the revision of The Melody of Bones back in January and, surprise surprise, kept hitting a wall. This wall happens at the end of every book for me. Something derails the outline and I have to crawl through about 600 words a day.

It’s not awesome, but apparently that’s how my brain works. So instead of Nora’s lighthearted romantic comedy dodging werewolves in rural New York, I’m neck deep in battle with a dragon named Prudence as she tries to save the world.

It is, as you might have guessed, an urban fantasy. Which isn’t a genre I’ve tried before, but I’m giving it a go. So far it has been great fun choosing everyday settings that might be fronts for supernatural creatures, and building a world that exists next to our own.

And yes, I believe there is at least one sequel to this novel.

As for Nora’s novel, it is a fun romp through urban fantasy as well, with a tad more focus on romance. I imagine there can be several novels in her line, given that much of it is mystery with a splash of the supernatural for flavor. The stakes are simpler, instead of epic end-of-the-world stuff, so I can shift focus easier and keep the novels fresh.

Later this year I’ll be working on the third book in my science fiction series, assuming I can finish Melody of Bones anytime soon. And then I have several more novel ideas simmering in the back of my head that need to make their way onto the page.

Take a look at what my fellow authors are working on right now in this month’s Round Robin!

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1EW
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
A.J. Maguire  https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/ (YOU ARE HERE)
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobincourtright.com

Prepping for Submission – March Round Robin 2019

I know this goes against the age-old adage not to edit your book as you write, but to keep going until you’re finished and THEN edit but… I totally don’t do that.

Normally, I write the first 3/4 of the book and then go back, edit and take notes on what I’ve got so that I can see what subplots need tied up and what characters I lost in the narrative. Once I reach my stopping point, I have a clear view of what the ending needs to be and move on from there.

Then I have a third draft, which gives me the word count and helps me write the synopsis alongside it.

But I broke my own rules with The Melody of Bones and this newest approach seems to work even better. Before I explain, I should leave a disclaimer that I have a wonderful husband who works and allows me a great deal more time to write than some, so this might not work for you if you can’t block out large periods of time for writing.

He also spoiled me with a super-awesome laptop that has a pen-function so I can take notes directly on the screen instead of constantly printing things out. So keep that in mind too.

Currently I have 3 drafts going on the same novel, all at once.

I got to the 3/4 mark and started my major revision, using the ‘track changes’ portion of my word program so I could go through and review what was going on. At the beginning of my writing time, I track those changes, accepting them and permanently inserting it into the novel, for about three chapters.

This reminds me of what I’ve changed.

After I’ve done at least three chapters – sometimes more, depending on what other work needs doing that day – I start writing the new stuff. I aim for 1500 new words a day, inching my way through that last quarter of the novel.

This is normally where all the BIG action is, and it always takes me a long time to write, which tends to be depressing for a writer. We don’t like it when we feel like we’re slogging through the swamp of sadness.

Which is why, at the end of the day, I take that neat pen/tablet mode and start from the beginning of the novel, highlighting typos and sentences that feel off. These bits will be fixed when I do my 4th draft.

Another recent change I’ve made is that I am writing the synopsis at the same time as the novel. I work on it once a week (on Tuesdays) so that by the time the 4th draft is completed, I should have something palatable for agents/editors.

Maybe.

The synopsis is the great nemesis of the novelist, after all. I’m never quite sure if I’ve nailed it.

See what my fellow authors do to polish their work…

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Anne Stenhouse  http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
A.J. Maguire  https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/ (YOU ARE HERE)
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1dm
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobincourtright.com

January Round Robin – Secondary Characters

When I started writing Tapped – my science fiction about rogue super-soldiers inadvertently starting an underground railroad in space – the character named Seach Barlow was secondary. He was meant to be a complication on the road to happiness in Jorry’s life, a memory of who she had been in the war, and a reminder of what she had lost.

Their freedom had come from the sacrifice of one I thought was the other major character of the tale; Johnathan Relo. The man had given himself up so that Seach and Jorry could get away from the authorities; men who meant to trap them in a quasi-prison that would take away their autonomy. Relo is, in my estimation, a true hero; a man who was willing to lay down his life for his friends and the woman he loved.

With Relo casting such a shadow on the narrative, it was easy to put Seach into a little corner – at first. But Seach had other plans. As the story progressed, he began pushing himself to the front, proving that he was every bit as heroic as Relo when he rescued a man on Pluto. And then again, on Neptune, when Seach kept his cool under interrogation, inevitably aiding in their escape.

At every turn, Seach was there.

Midway through the rough draft I realized how much more interesting Seach was. He had spent too much time with Jorry not to have formed a profound bond, and since he knew about the romance between Relo and Jorry, it caused a great deal of inner turmoil for him. But more than that was the fact that he showed up every day. Perhaps he would have laid down his life the same way Relo did, but that’s not the way his story turned.

His sacrifice was of a more subtle manner, and as I came to understand it, a far more profound one.

And that is how Seach bumped himself up from Secondary character to a Main POV character, and one of my favorites. He will forever hold a special place in my heart, and in the books. Dealing with him has helped me broaden my focus when writing, forcing me to dig deeper whenever a character makes their way onto the page.

Interestingly enough, my current project has been nudging my character development skills as well. I am editing Castle of Three Kings and, in fickle writerly fashion, I decided to switch from Third Person Limited to First Person POV. This change has required me to focus more intently on how the secondary characters affect my POV character.

Given that we live in First Person POV, this shouldn’t have come as such a surprise. Every person I meet affects me somehow, even if only in passing, and it should be no different for my character Kevin. But in asking how these secondary characters affect Kevin, I am also having to question the motivations and machinations of these characters.

It’s been a journey, and a fun one at that. I’m looking forward to seeing how the finished product looks.

Take a minute to check out what my fellow authors have to say about Secondary Characters in this month’s Round Robin…

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Margaret Fieland http://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1tC
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Rhobin L Courtright http://rhobincourtright.com/

Book Review – Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik

I’ve made no secret of my family’s love for the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik and this book, while ending on a gut-wrenching note, did not disappoint. Because we all enjoy this series, we listened to it together in the car. Laurence continues to be a steadfast man of honor and I enjoy the way he negotiates through life as an aviator, dealing with prejudices and less-than-honorable politics.

Temeraire the dragon is a source of joy, and the interactions between dragon and Captain Laurence are always a delight.

I will note, however, that near the end of the book both my husband and I had to read ahead on our own because we needed to know what was going to happen. There is a distressing situation that crops up, and in fact my husband – traitor that he is – snagged the next book to read without me.

(Note: He did this without telling me, which is why he gets an extra special glare.)

As to the novel itself, I find Novik’s narrative fluid and comfortable, easy to both listen to and read. I enjoy the moral pickles she puts her characters into, and the heroic means in which they meet such challenges. This series continues to be a joy to read and the cats in our house have all been honored with dragon names because of them.