Book Release Mayhem!

UC front cover-sample-2Usurper has made its way to virtual shelves! You can find it on Amazon in both eBook and paperback.

This is the third installment in the Sedition series that follows Trenna Dyngannon and her husband Nelek as they struggle to find peace between humankind and the Eldur nation.

Fans of the novels – who may or may not have threatened to hunt me down if I didn’t stop writing other things and finish this book – will be pleased to find Nelek and Trenna in fighting shape. The quirky pair were left in exile in the second book (Saboteur) so I know a lot of you were left hanging.

In my defense, the reason this book took so long was because I discovered that I was Saboteur-WEBtrying to fit two books into one.

Why yes, this means there is a fourth book.

And yes, that book is already underway. It is in the outlining phase and I’ll be rolling up my sleeves to work on it later this year.

Sedition was my first published work so it holds a special place in my heart. I remember floundering with that first draft, trying to piece together things on 3×5 cards and make a sensible plot out of the personalities on the page.

Sedition-WEBWell, I remember coming to terms with what a plot was in general. When I started it was just a bunch of characters doing different things that occasionally intersected. It wasn’t until I joined a writers group (The Dreamers from the Forward Motion for Writers website) that I was able to see the work as a bigger picture.

At the time I had no idea there would be more books coming. Now, as I begin the process of ending this series, there is a part of me that dreads coming to the last page. Trenna and Nelek, and now their children, have become a part of my daily life.

As strange as it sounds, it will be difficult to say goodbye, no matter how the story ends.

 

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Year’s End

Well, after possibly the worst Christmas present ever – which was a 24 hour flu bug that gave me an absolutely miserable day – I’m finally getting around to my end-of-year post.

A friend of mine (L.J. Cohen, author of several YA novels that everyone should be reading) introduced me to the idea of posting writing goals and the like several years back and I’ve come to enjoy this little tradition.

So!

I wasn’t able to get to everything I wanted to do in 2015 writing-wise. I blame this on the re-write of Persona, which took several months more than anticipated. It is, however, finished and I have been shopping it around (another of my 2015 goals).

Tapped was released in January 2015 as my first ever self-published novel. I imagine I could do more marketing-wise for it but I think I’m going to stick to just writing the next book.

What’s next for 2016?

1)  Dead Weight – the sequel to Tapped is slated for work to begin starting January 1st. I’m terribly excited for this one and have been aching to get started.

2) Primal – This is a new-adult-paranormal-romance novel that I’ve been kicking around for years. I’ll begin work on it sometime in June, after I’ve completed the draft for Dead Weight.

3) Residual Haunting – Will be completed in 2016. ‘Nuff said.

4) Usurper – Is currently being edited. It may drag into the first two weeks of 2016, but not much further than that.

5) Persona – Is going to go onto Kindle Scout. We’ll see how that goes. And I’ll throw confetti and wave people toward it because … apparently that’s what I’m supposed to do?

I dunno, I’ve never done it before. We’ll have to see.

Beyond the writing …

I hope to enjoy many, many hours with my son, doing odd-ball things and having a blast.

That’s it … that’s my 2016. I hope everyone else had a couple of great holidays and that their new year is spectacular!

Throwing Confetti! (AKA – Persona’s Re-Write is done!)

Technically I started this book over a decade ago while working at a Clinic & Hospital. I toted it around in a notebook and copied pages off for my mother since typing on the electric typewriter (shut up, I couldn’t afford a computer back then) took more time than I had.

Yes, she still has those copied pages buried in a closet somewhere and no matter how much I beg her, AJMaguire-PersonaCover-1280hshe refuses to use them for kindling.

Mothers, you know?

Anyway, seven drafts and a decade later I finally, finally have a completed story.

Many will remember that the original re-write was posted online, chapter by chapter, in 2013 but I hired an editor (like you do) and he loathed the ending so much I had to re-think what I was trying to do with this particular story.

After many nights with mint-chocolate-chip ice-cream, pouring over his notes and sketching outlines (there were at least a dozen before I came up with the one I used) and after an agonizingly long rehabilitation process from the avocado incident in 2014 (I know how to properly core an avocado now, so there’s no worry for me stabbing myself again) I have learned a great deal about the writing process through this one book alone.

First, I learned that editors are worth their weight in gold. Yes, they’re expensive, but I don’t regret the money I’ve laid out.

Second, and this is going to sound weird, but I work better with Courier New font during the draft process and then turning it into Times New at the end. It’s just a quirk of mine.

Third, sticking to a single point of view is hard. At least for me it is. But forcing myself to do this brought the character into more detail, forced me to dig deeper and really explore who she was and how she felt about what was happening.

Fourth, I must be careful of what I’m reading while I’m in the drafting process because my personal style begins to mimic the style of what I’m reading.

Fifth, I am a romance author. I may have Fantasy and Science Fiction and, now, Historical Fiction under my name but in the end, I am a romantic and I want to see my characters find someone who will support and build them up as people. The romance may not be the focal point of the story, but it is there and I refuse to be ashamed of that anymore.

Now then, this does not mean I’m going to start writing straight romance novels. I can’t. I tried that once and ended up with Witch-Born.

It just means that I’m not going to shy away from it anymore.

Love is an integral part of human life.

I mean, even Star Wars has romance in it.

I can write things like that. I enjoy writing things like that, so I’m going to.

Gutter Space – Chili’s Edition

My characters all met at Chili’s last night, crowding around booths in their respective groups, sometimes mingling with characters from books or series outside of their own, and generally causing mayhem to my REM cycle.

At this point in my career I have 6 books out for sale, 6 books on my desktop in various states of incomplete, and several trunk novels that will never see the light of day. That made for a terribly large Chili’s reunion in my head and, since it amused me and I don’t mind sharing my crazy from time to time, I’ve opted to detail (and elaborate) on the dream.

First off, I don’t know why Chili’s was chosen. I rarely go there. Sedition-WEB

Trenna and Nelek (Sedition series) were at the bar, eyeing me with varying degrees of contempt since their third book is still being edited. I avoided them as much as possible since I’m fairly certain Trenna would have kicked my butt if I’d come close enough.

Also at the bar stood Rachel, Jared, Cal and a gruesome witiko (Residual ajmaguire-ResidualHaunting-ARTONLYHaunting), which was awkward in its own right since the witiko is a nasty beast of a creature that should not have been allowed in the building. They seemed to be avoiding me since I’m pretty sure they’re all a little scared of how that story is going to end.

I sat at a booth with Megan, Sam, and Gunter (Persona) since that’s the book I’m currently focused on at present. I won’t tell you how they were treating me since it might be a dead giveaway as to the ending of that novel, but the booth across from us was full of Jorry, Seach, and Devon (Tapped series) and they were mostlyAJMaguire-PersonaCover-1280h laughing amongst themselves.

I think that’s because I have them written into my writing schedule to begin work on Dead Weight in January.

Behind Jorry and Seach sat Alex Huntley (The Abolitionist) in all her Civil War Era glory. She had several people surrounding her but I couldn’t make them all out, which I attribute to the fact that I haven’t begun working on her story yet and don’t quite know who they are.

Deviation-510On the peripheries of the restaurant were tables full of characters from my completed novels and stories; Deviation, Witch-Born Series, Medusa and the like. Most of them looked satisfied and amused with all the tension going on in the center of the room.

There was one big table full of dead characters, which was sad and I thought about going over to visit with them but … I mean, if Trenna would have kicked my butt just for not being done with her third book yet, imagine what those guys would have done to me.

And then there were the tables full of vague shapes, almost apparitions, and at first glance I thought they might be more of my casualty count but after a bit I realized that these were the stories my subconscious was still working on, stories I hadn’t even considered yet. Percy Pru and Ashton Bainbridge (Primal) were somewhere in there and I may feel guilty about that because I keep meaning to sit down and write that noire/dragon/mystery.

Weirdly, the confusion of tables and characters actually made sense to me. I can see what’s coming deadmagic-510next on my writing schedule (or what needs to come next) standing at the bar. I imagine once I’ve set Persona aside and started shopping it around, Trenna and Nelek will come to my booth and someone will take their place at the bar.

So … that’s my subconscious organizing my writing schedule in my sleep.

Using Chili’s.

I know I’m crazy, but hey … it works.

Missed Deadlines and Fighting the Muse

I know there are a lot of writers out there that just go with the flow, throwing out however many words a week at sporadic intervals, relying on their Muse to get them through.

Wait, you actually thought you'd be writing today?
Wait, you actually thought you’d be writing today?

I envy these people. I imagine their Muse sitting right beside them, nagging them at all hours of the day to get their work done because there’s sooooo much more to be done.

My Muse …

My Muse is that fat, lazy cat licking herself in the corner. She really couldn’t be arsed to move herself, let alone nag me about anything. If I relied solely on her, I would never get anything done.

So I have to make deadlines. Deadlines motivate me, force me to go to the corner and pick up the lackadaisical Muse and pester her until something resembling a plot starts to show up. This is why first drafts take me so long and why editing has become my favorite thing ever, because editing relies more on style and craft than it does on my capricious Muse.

This is also why a missed deadline drives me to hiding in a make-shift couch fort, gorging myself on chocolate.

Now then, I have missed several deadlines for Persona. At first this was because of the Great Avocado Incident of 2014 wherein I managed to stab myself through the hand.

Yes, I really did that. Yes, I lost feeling in three of my fingers on my left hand and the Doctor’s weren’t sure if I’d ever get it back. It was awful, I tell you; awful.

However, it is now nine months into 2015, I have full functionality with my left hand (hurray!) and I have still managed to miss nearly every deadline I’ve given myself with Persona.

Why?

Several reasons …

  1. Because I missed the first deadline.
  2. Because I MISSED THE FIRST DEADLINE.
  3. Because life happens sometimes and there were family issues I needed to attend to.
  4. BECAUSE I MISSED THE FIRST DEADLINE.
  5. Because this is the single hardest piece I have ever written.

I think you get the point. While there were other elements that got involved here, the main problem is that I let that first deadline slip away from me. I lost my momentum, my drive, and it took forever to get it back.

So if you’re like me and your Muse is a fat orange cat whose back is constantly turned to you, make deadlines.

And then KEEP those deadlines. Your couch fort and chocolate will only sustain you for so long.

Owning Your Craft – Sedition Version

I began reading Sedition to my son recently. He’s seven now and the whole Fantasy world of Dyngannon seems to appeal to him.

Sedition-WEBThat or he just really likes the sword on the cover. I’m pretty sure much of the story is over his head but, he picked it and all. (Don’t worry, we read picture books before we settle in for a chapter of this one.)

In any case, it’s been nearly six years since that book was first published and Trenna Silvanus remains one of my most popular characters. I get loads of commentary from people wanting to know when the next segment of her story is coming out (soon, I promise) and … yes, this does make my little writer’s ego fluff up in pleasure.

That being said …

If Sedition weren’t already published I would be doing a major overhaul on it.

The dialogue is hard to get through in places. There are dozens and dozens of peripheral characters whose involvement in the story itself could be richer – sometimes shorter, but richer in content at least. The exposition is clunky. The narrator’s voice bounces (particularly in regards to Brenson and Nelek, which I’m going to blame on the fact that I wasn’t handling the male POV right).

The one bright, shining light in the book so far (and we’re only in Chapter Seven) is that Trenna really is likable. She’s spunky, tough, and has a sense of humor that exerts itself in some of the oddest places.

Why am I telling you all this?

This book is out for sale. What sane writer points out the flaws of their own work in a public forum? Who’s gonna go out and buy this thing now?

Honestly?

Because any sane, professional writer also owns their craft.

I own the fact that the book I wrote nearly ten years ago (NOTE: it did not get published as soon as it was finished, it took a long time to find a home) is not as strong as the books I’m writing now.

I own that my personal style has changed with every book I’ve written.

I own the mistakes that are in Sedition just as much as I own the things I did right.

What did I do right?

Trenna.

In fact, the main cast of characters were done right; Nelek, Brenson, Faolan, Marsali, Brock. They have individual voices, concerns, arguments, and motivations. And while I remember it was complicated to the max trying to get all those individuals out into the open without making a 300,000 word book, it worked out in the end.

So this is me owning my craft. Maybe I’ll start working on a 10 year anniversary edition of Sedition and clean up some of my mistakes.

Maaaaybe.

Probably not, though. Because after Usurper is done there’s at least one more book in this series. And the Tapped series has at least 4 main books with several novellas in the queue. And I have a Civil War/Western that has been simmering on the back burning for a while now. Annnnnd … my Dragon Noir.

You get it. There’s lots going on in my head. But hey, if there’s enough interest maybe I will.

Working with Historical Timelines – Persona Version

WWII is heavily documented. I have volumes and volumes of historical content that have helped me better understand how and why events took place throughout the war.

No, really. Volumes.

I also have several Documentaries on DVD which have helped shed some light on the timeline forAJMaguire-PersonaCover-1280h Persona and the general feel of what was rationed and what was needed and how transportation worked and …

You get it.

All this history is wonderful. I love history. It makes me all giddy inside to research it.

The feeling I get when I find something within my research that perfectly fits the story and adds another level of authenticity is … Well, it’s better than a stack full of York Peppermint Patties. (And I do so love York Peppermint Patties.)

I also hate history.

Discovering something in my research that contradicts the story-line I’ve created is frustrating to the extreme. I research as I go, so there tends to be a lot of revision precisely because of this.

Example: 

The original opening scene for Persona had Megan on a plane. But it was discovered that planes were generally only used for transporting military personnel and often the wounded for relocation, so it was more likely that she would have been on a passenger ship.

Insert weeks of research hunting for a passenger ship that, for plot purposes, had to be sunk. Eventually I found the SS Ceramic and there was much rejoicing.

Today I find myself in a similar pickle. The outline that I have ends Megan’s story on a very particular date because (without going into too much detail and spoiling the whole book) things happened on that date, in that place, and it brings her story a certain sense of cohesion.

However …

That date is several months away from the current chapter.

There are a couple of ways I can handle this and, as an author who really, really doesn’t want to miss another deadline with this particular book (seriously, I’ve passed several of them already and I’m not even sure why. I’m normally very strict with deadlines) I need to make my mind up by Sunday.

  1. I can rearrange the timeline of the whole book, extending Megan’s stay and bringing things closer to what I want. (Not a bad plan, though a moderate amount of work.)
  2. I can slow this chapter down, be all artsy-crafty-clever with the passage of time. (I’m not very good at this sort of thing, though. It’s an area I need to improve on.)
  3. I can ignore the historical timeline. (I don’t like this plan. I did all the research for a reason, after all.)
  4. I can stretch out the inevitable scenes at the end (which I can’t explain for fear of spoiling things) and lengthen Megan’s time in a very bad place. (Not sure I like this plan either because it draws out the tension too much at the end.)

So many choices. 

As an author these sorts of problems happen all the time. And I imagine when I tackle my Civil War story (likely sometime next year) that I’m going to have a lot of these timeline problems show up.

The core of the issue is that I want to have that authenticity, the reality of what happened integrated seamlessly into the work, but I also want to tell Megan’s story. Megan is fictional. Her story is about who she is as a person, not what happened during WWII.

With that in mind, option 3 becomes more visible. Although I’ve done the research, the research is not the book, and I think that’s really what I have to keep in mind here.

Megan is the story.

As the author, I have to decide which option tells her story best.