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Book and Author News

Book and Author News

Not too much to report this month, but some interesting stuff nonetheless.

The Contests, Giveaways, and Sales page has a new format. I'm going to try to keep this updated a little better, but here's where you'll find information on upcoming and ongoing events, other than new releases, which have been added to the right-hand side of the page. 

Cemetery Hill, the third Sunshine Walkingstick novel, was released on 13 October. I'm happy to have this one out at long last. I love Sunny and her world, but it's difficult to write in. No idea if or when any other full-length novels will be released in this series, but keep reading for news on a possible anthology containing a short story.

I haven't set a specific release date for The Gathering Storm yet. It's still being released in January 2018, probably after the middle of the month, which is generally when I release titles. I'll have a more specific date as soon as I finish the first draft. That should be soon. I'm in the middle of some of the more climactic scenes near the end of the book, and expect to have no more than 10-15 scenes left, most of which have been planned out.

I wrote a brief blog post containing cover reveals for the final two books in the series, plus the final book in the Pruxnae Series, about a month ago on the Lucy Varna blog. Here are the covers, because wow, are they good. I'm so excited to finally be able to share them!

That blog post also contained possible release dates for Redemption (Daughters of the People, Book 6.5) and War's Last Refuge (Daughters of the People, Book 7). I'm fairly certain, but not entirely positive, that Redemption will be released in March rather than February, and War's Last Refuge in April or May, depending on how long it takes me to write it. I expect the final book of the series to be longer than the rest, so it could take much longer to write. There's just a lot going on in that story, as it wraps up not just the series, but also the story of the People.

After I finish writing the Daughters of the People Series, my current plan is to work on The Master Vampire, the final novel in the Vampyr Series (V.R. Cumming), and then tackle Sweet Surrender. I know readers are chomping at the bit for Eric's story. I had planned on releasing it and Sweet Surrender this year, but couldn't due to some personal issues. 

A reader asked if there will be more Sons of the People novels. My tentative answer is yes. The series was supposed to span four novels interspersed among other novels of the People (explained in the linked blog post). I would very much like to tackle Ruby and Jordan's story as the next Sons of the People novel, and have begun developing it. (Yes, we will see more of Lali, and probably Petey, too.) 

That said, I've been considering a shift in what I write for a couple of years now, from romantic fiction to "straight" (non-romantic) fiction, particularly in the Speculative Fiction genres (Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Weird Fiction). When I set my schedule for the next couple of years, always a tentative process that's continually being revised, I completely forgot to include stories for that new direction. Hey, I was super excited to finally jot down all the stories I've been dying to write beyond the ones already promised!

I'll be revising my schedule again soon, and will include the new stories there. I had planned to publish those stories, along with short stories, under the name Isobel Fletcher, but after much consideration, I said screw it and am publishing them under my own name instead. Publishing under pen names is tiring, and feels less than honest to me, even though it's not. In fact, it's a time honored tradition. 

Still, I'm oddly happy for the change. I took a couple of days to rearrange the websites to reflect the change, and hope to have the Romancing the Weird anthology published in the first quarter of 2018.

Speaking of anthologies, I've been working on a secret project for a few months now, a Christmas anthology containing a short story written under each of my names, Lucy Varna, Celia Roman, V.R. Cumming, and (of course) C.D. Watson. Two of the stories are finished. "Twelfth Night" by Lucy Varna is written from the perspective of a young Lukas Alexiou, and details his first encounter with the Woman with No Face. "On the 7th Day of Christmas" by Celia Roman takes place on New Year's Eve at the party David and Sunny cooked up. Yes, they're finally having it! 

I'm in the middle of writing a V.R. Cumming (non-sexual) short story told from the perspective of Eric's creche-mate, Alice, tentatively titled "Dreaming of a Dark Christmas." The final story will be written under my own name and will possibly involve Krampus, but don't get too excited. That one's only tentative at this point.

If I can get all the stories written, then the anthology will go out in December. I'll have more news on it soon, including a cover reveal. Hopefully fans of the series will enjoy the stories.

That's it for now. Happy fall, y'all!

Book and Author News

Book and Author News

Lots of news this month, particularly concerning the Sunshine Walkingstick Series published under Celia Roman, one of my pen names.

First up, the free stuff. I have three GoodReads giveaways going on right now, each ending on 30 August 2017. Three paperback copies of each title are up for grabs to US residents, so hop on over and enter: Greenwood Cove (Sunshine Walkingstick, Book 1) by Celia Roman; Alien Mine (The Pruxnae Series, Book 3) by Lucy Varna; and The Vampire's Favorite (The Vampyr Series, Book 2) by V.R. Cumming. Good luck!

Cemetery Hill, the third novel in the Sunshine Walkingstick Series, is almost here. I'm so excited to finish this one, as it's a doozy in a lot of ways. The official release date is 13 October 2017, a perfect date considering the creep factor. In fact, I moved the release date for that very reason.

Cemetery Hill is available for preorder now, or if you'd rather wait, just keep an eye out here, on Facebook, or in the Celia Roman newsletter and I'll let you know when it's available for sale. 

I've already contracted out the audio edition, and yes, the lovely Rebecca Winder will be narrating it.

Speaking of audiobooks, the audio edition of The Deep Wood (Sunshine Walkingstick, Book 2) is finally here. It's available on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes

I've also released the audio edition of Death Omen (A Sunshine Walkingstick Short Story), which Rebecca kindly narrated for me. Since I couldn't ever get my mailing list provider to cooperate so I could make it available for newsletter subscribers, I finally put it up for sale. It's available at Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. While the digital edition of Death Omen is still free to newsletter subscribers, other readers can now purchase either the ebook or paperback editions at their leisure.

After Cemetery Hill is released in October (with the audiobook following probably in November), I likely will not have news on the Sunshine Walkingstick Series for a good, long while. For one, I want to catch up with my other series, but for another, Sunny has worn me out. (I talked about that a little in my last news update.) It's possible that I may never write in the series world again outside of short stories, but saying so for certain would be unwise. I have been known to get a wild hair every once in a while and write something unplanned. That's how we got Sunny in the first place!

Speaking of wild hairs and unplanned stories, I'm (very tentatively) working on a surprise for all my readers, regardless of which pen name one prefers. Keep your fingers crossed, as it should be an interesting surprise, if I can squeeze in the time to work on it.

Remember "Intersections," the first story for the Romancing the Weird anthology? Well, I finally finished it and did indeed release it to newsletter subscribers this past July. I'm working on the next two stories for the anthology, one of which is already mentioned on the book's page. It's a tossup as to which story I'll finish first, but one of them should be released soon.

So far, I have about eight stories I hope to include in Romancing the Weird. Whether all of them make the cut or not is another thing!

Now that Sunny's first three books are mostly out of the way (we still have some editing to do before the official release date), I've turned my attention to the next story on my list, The Gathering Storm, which is officially Book 6 in the Daughters of the People Series, but is in reality the seventh book. 

The series was originally supposed to have seven books, a symbolic reflection of the Seven Sisters. When Tempered came along, I slid it in between Books 3 and 4 (The Enemy Within and In All Things, Balance) as Book 3.5, which has confused the dickens out of readers. Yes, you should read Tempered between those two! Then I had such a blast writing from India's point of view, I added another .5, bringing the entire number of novels in the series to nine. Unplanned stories seem to be a thing for me, but that usually works out to everyone's benefit, so I'm not complaining.

Anyway, as part of my preparation for diving back into writing in this series, I've been re-reading the books, beginning with The Prophecy. If you haven't already, you can read some of my thoughts on revisiting the series here.

Yes, this is my first series, but even if it weren't, it would be my favorite. The story world is so deep, and it draws from areas in which I have personal experience, including genealogy, history, and archaeology. Plus, I really enjoy the variety of characters and situations. Every story is fresh and new, and allows me to bring in different aspects of life every single time. I had no idea, for instance, how much of my personal beliefs slipped into the stories until the current re-read.

Since I'm slowly re-immersing myself in the world of the People, I may go ahead and write the final two books in the series after completing the first draft for The Gathering Storm, if my momentum holds. Redemption, officially Book 6.5, will jump back a little in time and pick up not long after Bobby Upton's kidnapping. Those who enjoyed seeing peeks of India Furia and her budding romance with Hiro Okada, one of Bobby's BFFs, will absolutely love Redemption, as it will feature the contrarian Daughter and the former Delta Force Operator.

The couple featured in the final book, War's Last Refuge, is a surprise I've been holding onto from the beginning. Alas, all good things must end. The big reveal happens in The Gathering Storm; by the end of Sigrid and Will's tale, readers should have a good idea of which characters will take the lead in the series finale. 

I know my slower writing schedule is frustrating to some readers, but I am working steadily on the first draft for The Gathering Storm. No promises on a release date yet, but I'm well aware that it's been two years since Sanctuary's release. I absolutely, positively, beyond any doubt did not mean to leave readers hanging that long. Hopefully, I can make it up to you by providing a solid finish to the series in the last three books. If I have my way (and since I'm the writer, there's a pretty good chance of that), I'll be writing and releasing many more books in this story world over the coming decades. 

Speaking of extra stories, Say Yes, the first Sons of the People novel, was one of those unplanned surprises. I just finished re-reading it, and have to say, Petey's epilogue had me a little teary eyed.

I hardly ever do sales on Say Yes, since it's sort of hanging out there on its own until I get more stories in the series done, but it's been a while since its release, so it's time. Right now, you can pick up Say Yes for free at Kobo, or for $.99 or the equivalent at Amazon. Those prices are good for a very short, very limited time. Since the regular retail price is $4.99, go get your copy now and enjoy it while beach reading season is still upon us here in the northern hemisphere.

I wrote a blog post for authors called "How Much Is Your Writing Really Worth?" that somewhat briefly discusses placing a real dollar value on your work, if only so you'll have a goal to shoot for. I haven't written much for that blog over the past few months because the posts generally take a lot of work. Right now, I'd rather focus on writing fiction, which is where I make my livelihood.

That said, I'm slowly beginning work on a pet project, Alternate Realms Magazine, which will eventually feature original short stories in a quarterly format, supplemented by articles and reviews on the website. The focus there will be on short fiction created by indie and hybrid authors, as well as unpublished writers and freelancers. Getting the magazine started (and it will be a magazine) will likely take a lot of elbow grease, but I believe in the project and hope to attract readers and writers to it in a slow and incremental fashion.

That's all my news for now. Don't forget to enter the GoodReads giveaways and pick up Say Yes while it's on sale. 

Rediscovering the Joy

Rediscovering the Joy

A few weeks ago, when it became clear that I was on the verge of (finally) finishing the first draft of Cemetery Hill (Sunshine Walkingstick, Book 3, by Celia Roman), I decided to re-read the Daughters of the People Series (Lucy Varna) in preparation for continuing work in that story world. The last series release was in August 2015 (Sanctuary, Book 5), and while I've been fiddling with developing the final three books in the series over the past two years, I wanted to refresh my memory on the story world before diving into it again.

The evolution of the cover for The Prophecy, with the original cover on the left and the latest one on the right. All covers were designed by L.J. Anderson, Mayhem Cover Creations.

I've written elsewhere about the way the Daughters of the People Series came about, from the initial concepts to writing The Prophecy, my first novel. The magic of discovery, that first moment when I realized I could actually write fiction, changed my life. Finishing The Prophecy was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, and the start of my career as a writer.

My first year of writing was so steeped in that magic, I couldn't stop writing. The dam, built over forty plus years of dreaming and trying and, often, failing, had broken. Words gushed out faster than I could capture them, and the ideas flowed with them. My editor jokes that if I never had another idea, I could write at a steady pace for years without running out of the ones already found.

Somewhere along the way, under the stress of family tragedy, a surprisingly well-selling novel, and a reader-oriented publishing schedule, I lost that magic. Writing became a chore, one I began to dread, and over the past two years, I struggled to write. It wasn't just that the joy I'd discovered in writing had disappeared; my entire process collapsed. Anyone who's followed my career can easily tell this simply by looking at the number of titles published in 2016 and 2017, compared to my first two years. The difference is staggering.

My mother used to tell me, "Thursday's child has far to go." I always took that to mean I had a lot of work to do before I'd get anywhere, that I had a long, long road ahead of me. When I told Mom this, she looked startled and said, "No, it means you're going to do great things."

Whenever I doubt myself, I try to remember that conversation, and her implicit faith.

 

The original cover for Light's Bane (left) and the current one (right).

For the past nine months or so, I've been concentrating on writing and publishing the Sunshine Walkingstick Series. It was an experiment, to see if I could write non-romantic fiction and to try to determine in which genre my writing style will fit best. Although I love each and every story world I write in, I've grown tired of Romance. My (writer's) voice and the style of stories I write don't fit well with what Romance readers enjoy reading.

Some, yes. Of course, yes, as I have a dedicated audience for each of my romantic series. 

But I kept asking myself if I'd be better off writing in a genre that tolerates, for example, deeper world building, a slower build, and stories that make the reader think. The umbrella of Speculative Fiction seemed like a good fit. I've always wanted to write short stories, I love all things Weird and Wondrous, and I had ideas by the bucket load. 

So I started a new pen name (Isobel Fletcher) under which I planned to write short stories of all genres fantastical, as well as novel length SciFi Horror. I'm still heading in that direction.

My plan (and I did craft a plan) entailed writing under two pen names, neither one of which would produce strict romances.

Eh. I should know better than to plan. 

From left to right, the first cover for The Enemy Within, the concept cover I created one afternoon, and the cover L.J. created based on that concept. It was at this point that she redesigned the covers for the first two novels in the Daughters of the People Series, and the concept off of which the covers for later novels were designed.

I promised myself that before I went too far down a new path, and especially before I added any new novels to my schedule, I would finish all the series I already had going so I could start with a relatively clear slate. Getting through the Sunshine Walkingstick Series was like slogging through cold molasses. That constant pressure to hurry up and publish killed 95% of the joy of writing in Sunny's world. For the first time since finishing The Prophecy, I found myself unable to juggle stories, a process that had been incredibly successful for me during my first two years writing fiction. Yes, I snuck in a few short stories here and there, but that was later, after I began to realize that I was doing everything all wrong.

When it feels wrong, it probably is wrong.

But this is the advice that nearly everyone gives to other writers: Write in series. Write in genres that sell. Create a publication schedule and stick to it.

That doesn't work for me. It took me entirely too long to realize that, and now that I have, I wonder why I ever thought it was a good idea in the first place, when what I'd been doing (writing what moved me, publishing as I finished) had worked so well. Organic planning works for me, and yes, I do have a plan. Rigid schedules? Not so much. 

Here's another piece of advice some writers tout as absolute truth: Never read your finished stories. Never look back. Always look forward.

That one doesn't work for me either. For one, some of my story worlds are so intricate, there's no way I can store all that information in a series bible. I mean, for pete's sake. The Daughters of the People Series is a nine book series, plus half a dozen or so short stories (several already published), a spin-off series (beginning with Say Yes), and more to come. It's just easier to read the stories.

For another, I actually like the stories I've written. Imagine that, a writer enjoying her own story worlds. 

It's been so long since I've written in the Daughters of the People world, there's no way I could finish the final three books in the series without refreshing my memory. But let me tell you, I dreaded the thought of picking up The Prophecy and reading it again. I knew my writing style had changed. Shoot, it changed so much in the first year alone that I ended up revising my first two novels and issuing second editions of each one.

I knew going into this re-read that I couldn't revise those books again, no matter how flawed they were. I just don't have the time. There are going to be problems, I thought, and tacked on a well-meant, Just cut off your internal editor and get through the story so you can move on.

The middle three books in the series: Tempered; In All Things, Balance; and Sanctuary. Tempered was not an original part of my seven-book-series plan. The main female character, Hawthorne, appeared in the first book, and grew on me so much, I decided to give her her own story. It was a finalist in the 2015 Maggie Award for Excellence (Georgia Romance Writers) in its category. 

And you know what? I found problems. The opening was slow, the writing was stilted, those damn misused participle phrases I hate so much kept popping up.

Know what else? About a third of the way through The Prophecy, I forgot all that and started enjoying the story. I rediscovered the magic I'd created nearly four years ago during the seven weeks it took me to write it.

By the end of the story, I was hooked. As soon as I finished The Prophecy, I picked up Light's Bane and sped through it, went on to The Enemy Within and ditto, and am now halfway through Tempered. These books are my bedtime reading. At times, I literally have to force myself to put them down so I can get enough sleep to function the next day. I don't always succeed, but now I know why some readers call the series addictive. 

Before my process breakdown roughly two years ago, I had planned on expanding the Daughters of the People world with two spin-off series, one being the aptly named Sons of the People Series and the other a seven book series that would take place after the final book in the Daughters of the People Series. Additionally, I had planned two short story collections, one of which I decided to go ahead with regardless (I already have a cover, too), and a three-part story starring the Woman with No Face.

The funny thing is, before all the craziness that started in the summer of 2015, I knew I could write in the world of the People for a very long time and be happy for it. Now that I've rediscovered the joy of this story world, I have also rediscovered that certainty. 

No Good Deed by Lucy Varna
The Christmas Surprise by Lucy Varna
Trick or Treat by Lucy Varna

The covers I created for three Daughters of the People short stories, which I wrote for newsletter subscribers. Two of the stories will be included in the first short story collection. The third will serve as the opening scenes of a Sons of the People novel. 

I was able to resist the temptation to fix the flaws in The Prophecy, including the typos. They weren't so numerous that they detract from the story.

Light's Bane, on the other hand, needs another pass. When I revised it (early 2015), I remember carrying a really heavy workload and hurrying to get the revision finished so I could move on. I wish now that I'd taken the time to read it again, or send it to a proofreader, this after my editor and I had already done numerous passes searching for problems.

Not enough, apparently. Halfway through reading my personal paperback copy, I had found so many typos, missing words, and extra words, I finally gave in and printed the entire manuscript off, after which I red-inked errors as I read. As soon as I can work it into my schedule, I'll go back and proofread the first half, but that won't be until I finish re-reading the series to date.

By comparison, I found one typo in The Enemy Within. Yes, I have a rigorous process. Errors will slip in, no matter what steps an author and her team take to prevent them. Nothing is perfect.

That said, when I published second editions of the first two novels, I standardized a format for the print editions that I then used in subsequent books. For some reason, I never reformatted The Enemy Within and Tempered so that the series would have a uniform interior look. I'll also be making time to do that, but again, probably not until I finish re-reading the entire series.

I could leave everything as it is, but writing is my business and it behooves me to do everything I can to create a professional product. When readers open my books, I want them to have the best reading experience possible. There should never be any question that I'm a reputable writer and publisher; where quality is concerned, my books should be indistinguishable from those released by corporate publishers. 

From left to right, The Gathering Storm (the next book in the Daughters of the People Series), the cover for the first short story collection, and Say Yes, the first Sons of the People novel. 

After handing off that last Sunshine Walkingstick novel to my editor a couple of weeks ago, I started working on The Gathering Storm, the next Daughters of the People novel. To be honest, it took me a while to get into it. I'd lived in Sunny's perspective for so long, it was difficult for me to adjust to the more subtle and detailed style I used for the stories written of the People. Writing the first couple of new scenes felt like I was pulling my own teeth.

Last night was different, though. After sitting down and studying my plot cards, I began a scene from Sigrid Glyvynsdatter's point of view. (The lead female character, who is a geneticist with the Institute for Early Cultural Studies, the People's primary research branch.) Her assistant, a non-member of the People named George Howe, with whom readers of earlier books should be familiar, walked in with some very interesting information. Big clue revealed in that scene, although I may tone it down in subsequent revisions, but that's not the point here. The point is that for the first time in a very, very long time, I was so excited about what I was writing, I forgot that I was working.

Yeah, that's been a problem.

People have a lot of funny notions about writing. Richard Parry, a fellow writer, shared a post with me a few days ago in which he outlined what non-writers believe a writer's schedule looks like. It involved a lot of drinking and angst. I laughed so hard, I cried. (And then I went and bought another one of his books, because dang, is he good.)

Folks, writing is a lot of hard work. If you haven't read the post in which I described how I wrote my first novel, I urge you to do so now. Take note of how long it took, in particular the number of hours. If you don't want to go look, that's ok. It was seventy-seven. Yup, seventy-seven hours just to write the first draft of a novel. Those seventy-seven hours were spread over thirty-three days, and those thirty-three days were spread over seven weeks. And that was just the first draft. It doesn't count the time my editor put into reading that draft as I wrote it, nor the time I put into the second draft, nor his time editing that second draft, nor any time I put into polishing the story and, finally, revising it.

Writing is not easy.

But it should be fun. It's taken a lot for me to rediscover the fun in writing. I hope I never lose it again.

In case you're interested, here's the current suggested reading order for stories written in the world of the People, including the final three as-yet-unpublished novels in the Daughters of the People Series:

The Prophecy
"No Good Deed"
"Trick or Treat"
Light's Bane
Original Prologue, Light's Bane
"The Christmas Surprise"
The Enemy Within
Tempered
Say Yes
Bonus Scene, Say Yes
In All Things, Balance
Bonus Scene, In All Things, Balance
"Tomorrow's Promise"
Sanctuary
The Gathering Storm
Redemption
War's Last Refuge

More information on the series is available at a dedicated website for all things People, including the official translation of the Legend of Beginnings and some commentary on it and the Prophecy of Light.

How I Wrote My First Novel in Seven Weeks

How I Wrote My First Novel in Seven Weeks

Note: Most of this post was originally published in January 2014 on a now-defunct blog. My process hasn’t changed significantly since then, only now I have the experience to understand exactly how hard it is to write when I deviate too much from this process. Lessons learned!

Yesterday*, I promised to share the techniques I used to plot and write my first novel, in the hopes of helping another would-be author who’s having similar problems. I didn’t expect for that post to come today, but that’s the idea I woke up with this morning, so here goes.

First, a little background. I’m a professional genealogist. As part of my “job” (I’m self-employed, so defining my work duties is entirely up to me) I write non-fiction genealogy-oriented articles and edit a small genealogical society newsletter. I also have a genealogy blog, where I share whatever comes to mind related to genealogy. Sometimes that’s information about my ancestors; other times, it’s thoughts on genealogy as a profession. My blogs suffer when my mind is focused elsewhere, it’s true, but the way I write posts is similar to the way I write other non-fiction. Since that’s important to the process I used to write my first novel, I want to take just a moment to provide an explanation. This reads a bit like one of those stupid infomercials, and I apologize for that. I did try to cut some of the you won’t believe what happens next crap out, but there’s only so much you can do with a this is how I did that story. Please bear with me while I explain.

Writing Non-Fiction Begins with an Outline

Yes, the dreaded non-fiction outline, the bane of school children everywhere. Or, at least, it was in my day. Report-writing is so uncommon in schools now that the lack draws criticism from educators everywhere, including Will Fitzhugh, editor of The Concord Review, the only academic journal devoted to publishing original historical research papers written by high school students. If you think students shouldn’t write non-fiction in high school, I’m about to change your mind because understanding how I write non-fiction was KEY to discovering my fiction-writing process, and that all begins with outlining…which I learned how to do in school, thanks to all the report-writing I was required to do back then.

I’ll spare you the grisly details of all that and jump right to the good stuff: outlining the non-fiction I write today. When I write a non-fiction article, the first thing I do is jot down ideas about the content. I then refine those ideas, adding or deleting where needed, and arrange the ideas into a logical order. This forms the basis of my outline.

For example, this morning, I jotted down ideas for an article I’ll likely publish in the newsletter I edit. The working title is “Researching Hidden Ancestors” and is based on four ideas I brainstormed this morning (right before I brainstormed this blog post): analyzing every record; expanding research; reading records rather than relying on indexes; and researching the FAN Club. From there, I developed an (informal) outline that looks like this:

  • Introduction
  • Defining “hidden” ancestors
  1. Focus on using records as much as finding them
  2. Techniques described can be used for any ancestor
  • Thoroughly analyze every record
  • Deep record analysis
  1. Example: ?
  • Expand the search
  1. Using non-typical records; going beyond Federal censuses and “low-hanging” fruit
  2. Example: Fletcher brothers (no land; tax records explain)
  • Be prepared to read
  1. Hidden ancestors hidden because records aren’t necessarily in their name
  2. Indexes therefore useless; read every record if no reliable abstract available
  3. Example: Sally Hemphill’s deceased child
  • Research the FAN Club
  1. Many hidden ancestors can be found through their Friends/Family Associates and Neighbors (i.e. FAN Club)
  2. Example: Amy (Nichols) Ledford
  • Conclusion

None of this means anything to non-genealogy readers, but it will mean something to its intended audience (none of whom will ever read this, so there’s no worry of spoilers). Now, I’ll use that outline to write the article, which will probably end up being around four pages long. Not bad for half an hour of brainstorming, eh?

What does outlining non-fiction have to do with writing fiction? Simple. My main problem with writing fiction was not with character development or world-building or lack of ideas, but with plot. I always ran out of plot a few pages into the story. One day, I realized that a non-fiction outline serves the same purpose as plot in fiction. The outline is simply a list of things discussed; plot is what happens in the story, i.e. the things you “discuss” while building the story. Same thing, different application. I already knew how to build an outline thanks to writing non-fiction. Applying it to writing fiction was really very easy, once I made that connection.

That was just the first step. Now, I had to figure out how to actually develop the plot in a fictional work, and for that, I had to figure out why I was having such a hard time getting from great beginnings to great endings. I don’t know why, but it hit me that I needed to actually see the story’s outline. Fictional stories have too many plot points to fit handily into a one- or two-page outline. So I brainstormed, did some research into how others handle the same problem, and came up with the next two keys.

Visual Plotting with Index Cards

Because I needed to “see” the story, I had to figure out a way to get the story into a larger format. I already knew a computer screen was too small because my favorite method of outlining non-fiction involves my computer. Handily enough, I have a free wall in my home, down a hallway, that was just large enough to use as a story board of sorts. I also remembered another technique I learned back in high school: using index cards to jot down research notes. I combined the two and came up with a workable system for visual plotting by pinning index cards, with ideas jotted on them, to my big wall. I pinned cards from left to right as to where I thought they would go in the story, with “uncertains” off to the side or pinned above the main story. If I had idea cards that were too vague and needed more definition, I pinned them to the side as well.

For example, one of my “big idea” cards read something like “Hero and Heroine fall in love.” That idea needed a lot of defining, but it was something that had to happen in the story, so I pinned it to the side and kept that in mind as I worked. Once I finished putting all my ideas on index cards and arranged them into a logical order, I began developing the plot, something I’ll describe in the next section.

When I was finished, I pulled every single card down, keeping them in order, and put the “outline” into a file in OneNote. I rubberbanded the cards and pulled them out when I got ready to write for the evening. Between this, a spiral-bound notebook (for jotting down ideas about what I want to write that night, a la Rachel Aaron), and things like character files (also in OneNote), I had everything I needed to actually finish the story.

The great thing about using this system is that I could move the cards around, and I did. A lot. As my idea of how the story should go developed, I did a lot of rearranging. I could also “see” that the story fell into three distinct “acts” and could plan accordingly. This helped develop the flow of the story, the ups and downs that naturally occur and thus make the story interesting.

Visual plotting is not by any means a new technique, nor is using index cards to plot, so this isn’t some unique idea I developed. Use your favorite search engine and you’ll see what I mean. What is unique about this is how it fit into my brain. That’s it.

Still, my process wasn’t quite complete. I took Rachel Aaron’s advice and wrote down every single thing I could think of in my story when I first pinned cards to the wall, but still had a lot of holes. That’s where the next key comes in.

Plot Points vs. Scenes

I’ve read a lot (and I do mean a lot) of books and articles on writing fiction, and nearly every single one of them emphasizes plotting using scenes. Holly Lisle, for example, describes a way to plot under pressure by writing down scenes on index cards. It wasn’t until after I’d unpinned and collated all my index cards that I realized I wasn’t jotting down scenes per se but plot points, and there’s a whole world of difference. When plotting via scenes, you have to think of every single element that goes into the scene. That means that the author has to know who’s going to be in a scene, where it’s going to take place, and what’s going to happen before figuring out the entire story. That absolutely doesn’t work for me, for a reason I’ll explain in a moment.

With plot points, on the other hand, you don’t have to figure out how to integrate them into a scene until you actually hit that point in the story. That leaves a lot of leeway for character and story development that wouldn’t necessarily take place with a rigid scene-by-scene outline.

Now, that’s not to say that I didn’t have ideas for scenes as I was plotting, because I did, and when I did, I made sure to jot down enough information on the pertinent index card that I could recreate the scene when it came time to write it. Honestly, though, a lot of my index cards looked like these examples (I removed spoilers):

  • Thwarted sex #1
  • Confrontation between Hero and Heroine over (specific underlying theme)
  • (This character) tells (that character) about (problem in story)
  • (Other character) gets upset because of XYZ

And so forth.

To develop the plot, I began with my initial ideas, written down and scattered across my wall, then identified holes in the story and filled those in, working back and forth using logic and basic story formulae (e.g. the first kiss, internal/external conflict, reactions from other characters, set-ups for additional stories, etc.) until I had a workable book-length plot. But I didn’t focus on scenes. I focused on things that had to happen to make the story logical. Having those plot points allowed me to move rather quickly through writing the story, in spite of the fact that I didn’t know exactly how I was going to integrate the PPs into the story, which brings me to my next point.

Plotters vs. Pantsers

I’ve known for a while that I prefer writing fiction by the seat of my pants (Pantser) rather than following a fully developed, rigid outline (Plotter); technically, I consider myself a hybrid because I combine the two for a very organic approach to writing. Even in non-fiction, my outlines are rather loose. I only developed the example above as much as I did to give you an idea of how I outline and then write non-fiction. Normally, I’d take my basic ideas and begin writing, but here I wanted to show you my thought process because it’s important to how I learned to plot fiction.

Now, being a hybrid Plotter-Pantser doesn’t mean I hadn’t put a lot of thought into the story because I had. I’ve been developing this story world for about two years and I had already made a rough outline of the seven-book story arc (titles plus one or two sentences on what happens in each story, but no detailed notes as to characters, etc.).

So, I already had a good idea of where I wanted the story to go. I just needed to develop that idea better and that’s what I did with the visual-index-card-plotting system I described above. As I wrote, I used the story’s plot points to pull myself through from one scene to the next, developing the characters, adding back story (often unexpected revelations), and deepening story lines as I went. I often found myself adding plot twists and characters, too, such as three men I dreamed up when I realized my Hero needed male friends. I hadn’t planned those characters at all in my initial plotting and planning. When I sat down to write one night, it suddenly dawned on me that I wasn’t showing enough interaction between my main characters and the rest of the community. (One of my favorite sayings in genealogy is, “No ancestor is an island unto himself.” This applies very well to fictional characters as well.) It turns out that those three characters all have critical roles to play in upcoming story lines, although only one (probably) will actually have his own story written out (Book 4).

When I finished the first draft, I discovered not one superfluous scene. Not. One. In fact, I had to add a scene, one that I had down as a plot point but accounted for in another way in the first draft. When I looked over my scenes list, I realized the story would really benefit from having that plot point expanded and explained in its own scene. The organic approach does have its advantages!

Writing Speed**

One of the big concerns people have with systems that produce first drafts quickly is that the writing quality suffers. I did not find that to be the case at all. In fact, the changes I made to my first draft were minor: typos, grammatical errors, tightening phrases, and adding small (and I really do mean small) fixes for plot holes or, more often, for stories yet to come in this series. Here’s the breakdown on time spent writing the first draft:

  • 33 days total writing, 68895 final word count (for the first draft)
  • 77.02 hours total writing time, or 2.33 hours per day
  • 2087.73 words per day, or 894.51 words per hour

Now, I did my math late at night after putting in a 4540 word day, so it might be a little off, but you get the idea. This is nowhere near Rachel Aaron’s 10K-word days, but I did manage to write an entire novel in a little over a month’s time by putting in 2 1/3 hours per day on average. To be fair, I did revise a little as I went, so my first draft was more like a first-second draft. But, it was really solid work, and I credit that to the plotting and writing system I used.

And Other Stuff

Each night when I sat down to write, I didn’t set a time limit or a word count goal. Instead, I focused on producing at least one well-written scene per night, and sometimes even managed two scenes, if I had enough time. I know, I didn’t plot based on scenes, but the one-scene-per-writing-session was a goal that helped me focus well enough to get from one night’s writing to the next. Many, many times when I finished writing, I would have ideas for the next scene, which I would write in my notebook or on the pertinent index card. Or I would wake up in the morning with an idea for the next scene, or I would brainstorm it during the day while doing something else, or…

Another key factor was enthusiasm. I know I keep referring to Rachel Aaron, but here’s where her system really made a difference for me. My enthusiasm ran pretty high during that first draft, in part because I was finally writing the way I always wanted to. I’m pacing myself a bit more with the second book, but my enthusiasm is still pretty high. I love my characters, I love the story, and I love the story’s world. I’m having a fantastic time writing about the people who’ve been hanging out in my head for a couple of years now. And in February, you’re going to have the chance to meet them because that’s when I plan to release the first book. Anyway, that’s it. That’s how I plotted and wrote the first draft of my first novel in seven weeks. I hope this overview is useful.

* Addendum: 18 April 2015

I wrote the above in January 2014, just a couple of weeks after completing the first draft of my first novel, The Prophecy. Since then, I’ve refined my writing process even more and learned an awful lot about what constitutes good writing. I learned so much, in fact, that I completely revised The Prophecy. The story didn’t change. That was always solid, but the way I told it changed a lot. I’ll eventually discuss how I revised The Prophecy elsewhere, possibly as part of how my writing (and the way I look at it) changed over time.

I’m also no longer a professional genealogist. Believe it or not, I’m making more money as a writer than I did doing research-for-hire. I’m still fairly well-known for it, among certain circles, and hope to one day return to the field and complete the many methodological articles I’d like to write.

** Regarding Writing Speed vs. Writing Quality

There’s a huge debate going on in the writing community juxtaposing the speed with which the first draft is written vs. the quality of the finished product. Other people combat those misconceptions far better than I could, including such heavy hitters as Russell Blake and Dean Wesley Smith.

The longer I write fiction, the more I realize that I have a comfortable, natural pace, usually around two to four thousand words per day (I still try to write complete scenes, so that’s about two to three scenes), five to six days per week, or about two to four hours a day. Sometimes I write longer. Occasionally, I don’t write at all, but even then, I’m doing something writing related. This system has allowed me to publish (as of April 2015) nine novels and one novella as well as a spattering of short stories.

I’m sure someday I’ll discuss my exact writing process, but the biggest point I want to hammer home is that the quality of the first draft has nothing to do with the quality of the finished product. All good writers edit and revise their first drafts at least once, all of them. I revise as I go along, refining ideas and story, developing characters and the story world. etc. Once the first draft is completed, I go over the entire thing twice, send it to my editor for a good look-see, then go over it again at least once prior to publication.

Almost everything I do after finishing the first draft is refining the writing. That’s what works for me. Other writers may do something different, and that’s fine. It’s great, even. What works for one person isn’t going to work for everyone else. That was the most important lesson I learned while writing my first novel. After years (decades, even) of reading writing how-to books, I realized that the rigid structure-first, story-last formula didn’t work for me. In fact, nothing about my writing process is rigid except that I devote time each day to my writing business, whether it’s writing (and I do try to write every day), editing and revising, formatting books for publication, blogging, learning (yes, I’m still learning; hope I always am), marketing, creating my own covers and teasers… I usually put in ten to twelve hour days, all totaled, but that’s part of being self-employed. I love what I do, love it so much, I hope I never have to stop. How many people can truly say that about the work they do?

Book and Author News

Book and Author News

It's been a crazy hectic month here. Lots going on, which translates to lots of book news, starting with brand new audiobooks.

As promised, Rebecca Winder finished narrating "Death Omen" (the Sunshine Walkingstick short story available exclusively to newsletter subscribers) and it is absolutely awesome. Rebecca has a smooth, pleasant speaking voice and does an incredible job rendering Sunny's deep woods accent. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the audio version to upload to my mailing list host. Until I decide what to do with it, anyone subscribed to the Celia Roman newsletter who wants a copy can email me (celia@celiaroman.com) with a request.

The Deep Wood by Celia Roman, available in audiobook format.

Rebecca should also soon be turning in the audio files for The Deep Wood, the second Sunshine Walkingstick novel. It will take me about ten to fourteen days to review them, plus another ten to fourteen days for ACX to do a quality control check, so look for the finalized audiobook to be available to listeners around the end of July or possibly the first of August.

If you haven't listened to Greenwood Cove yet and would like to try it, simply email me and I'll send you a download code. I only have a few left, so if you're interested, email me as soon as you can. So far, most of the people who've heard it have enjoyed it. It's hard not to with a narrator as great as Rebecca!

Work is progressing slowly but steadily on the third (and possibly final) novel in the Sunshine Walkingstick series, Cemetery Hill. I hit a point where the story felt unwieldy. When I laid out my plot cards and gave them a good "look see," as Sunny would say, I realized why: There was too much going on in the story; I had too much planned.

So I cut a few things, moved a few others to the (potential) next book, and rearranged the timeline for what was left. I'm now about 35,000 words into what should be a 55,000 to 60,000 word story. I sincerely hope to have the first draft finished in the next couple of weeks, after which I will do a light edit myself, then send it off to my editor. I'm aiming for an August release, but it may be September by the time Cemetery Hill makes it through the editorial process and is ready for readers.

As to other novels in the series, if a fourth book is published, then there will also be a fifth (and possibly a sixth) as a major turning point happens in the fourth book that will need to be resolved in a subsequent one.

Cemetery Hill by Celia Roman

I'm not sure yet if I want to write two to three more novels in this series. Sunny is incredibly difficult to write. While some critics call her a stereotype, I assure you she's not; I grew up around many, many people like her, including members of my own family. Even still, writing the local dialect is time consuming in a way that writing more standard English, even when slang is included, is not. If you're interested in seeing the series continue, shoot me an email and let me know. Sometimes, knowing that readers really love a series helps me decide which direction I want to take. 

The Gathering Storm by Lucy Varna

Regardless of what I decide to do with the Sunshine Walkingstick Series, the next book on my list to write is The Gathering Storm, officially book six of the Daughters of the People Series. It's been almost two years since the release of Sanctuary, the last installment, and readers are chomping at the bit for more. 

I am, too, to be honest. The Prophecy, the series' starter, was my first novel and a culmination of a lifelong dream to write fiction, and so, the story world is very dear to me. 

To prepare for working on The Gathering Storm, I'm reading The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science that Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry by Bryan Sykes. If that isn't a big clue as to part of what's going to happen in The Gathering Storm, I don't know what is!

On the short story front, I turned "Intersections," the first story in the Romancing the Weird anthology (written under the name Isobel Fletcher), in to my editor last week. What I thought was going to be a 3000 to 5000 word story ended up being a whopping 10,000 words. Normally, Richard reads each story as it's written, but with this one, I waited until the first draft was finished before turning it in. He contacted me a couple of days later and told me parts of it confused him.

Back to the drawing board. Hey, folks. This is why writers have editors.

He's going over "Intersections" a second time before he turns it back over to me. There may be a little more back and forth, but I'm looking to release this one to newsletter subscribers in July. 

In the meantime, I finished a second short story titled "Such a Good Wife" that I have started sending out to short story magazines. Selling to a magazine is a much slower process than releasing self-published titles. It's also something of an experiment for me. I've never tried to publish fiction through more traditional routes, so we'll see how this goes. 

While brainstorming what to include in this post, I realized it had been a good, long while since I'd done anything with the Cullowhee Heritage Series, released under my first pen name, Lucy Varna. A Higher Purpose, the first entry in the series, was my first novella. 

It was also my first fail as a writer. I completely missed the mark with readers on this one, and fully intended to rectify that by revising it and releasing a second edition. After completing second editions of my first two novels, however, I simply had no energy left for the kind of intensive revisions A Higher Purpose needed, so I put it on the back burner, fully intending to come back to it as soon as I could.

A Higher Purpose by Lucy Varna

As soon as I could turned out to be longer than I expected by about eighteen months. I've added revisions for A Higher Purpose to my schedule and will try to slowly work on it over the next few months. Until then, I'm gearing up for a big sale on its successor, A Wicked Love, which can be read as a stand alone. Not sure if I'll announce the sale here or not, but if you're a newsletter subscriber or follow me on Facebook, you'll get a notice. 

The Cullowhee Heritage Series was supposed to be four stories long, one focusing on a different descendant of the same witch. After the poor reception the series received from readers, I decided to drop it, simply because I had other stories readers enjoyed more. I may revive the series at a later date, but don't hold your breath (that includes you, Aunt Liz) as I haven't set my writing schedule beyond the stories I've already committed to finishing, which are: Cemetery Hill; The Gathering Storm, Redemption, and War's Last Refuge (the final novels in the Daughters of the People Series); The Master Vampire (the final novel in the Vampyr Series); Sweet Surrender (the final novel in the Pruxnae Series); and the stories for the Romancing the Weird anthology.

Notice a pattern? Yup, I'm finishing a lot of series up before I commit to anything else. Ideally, I'd like to finish all those stories by the end of 2017, but I'm not counting on it as I have a lot of other items on my plate at the moment.

For example, I'm getting the house ready for an influx of visitors for August's solar eclipse. As it happens, my house sits within the band of the full shadow, so we'll have a front row seat to the event of the year. It should be an interesting show!

Book and Author News

Book and Author News

I know everyone's anxious to learn the names of the winners of the "Three Years Published" giveaway I ran last month for readers of books published under all my current pen names, Lucy Varna, V.R. Cumming, and Celia Roman. For the sake of fairness, I divided the giveaway into two sections, one for US residents and the other for International readers. The US prize consisted of a Kindle Paperwhite and an ebook of the winner's choosing. The International prize consisted of a $25 Amazon.com gift card and an ebook of the winner's choosing. 

And now, here are the winners: Tashia J. (US) and Bruce O. (UK).

Many thanks to everyone who entered! I really appreciate the show of support and the chance to get these prizes into the hands of my readers.

The Deep Wood, the second book in the Sunshine Walkingstick Series (written under the name Celia Roman), is now available as an ebook at Amazon and as a paperback at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and CreateSpace. The retail prices are, respectively, $2.99 and $11.99. It's also available through Kindle Unlimited.

I've teamed up with a wonderful narrator to produce audiobooks for this series. She just finished the first fifteen minutes of Greenwood Cove, the first book, and got it to me a few days ago, and I approved it right away. Look for the finished audiobook to be available in stores around late April 2017.

I'm hard at work on Cemetery Hill, the third book in the Sunshine Walkingstick Series, which I hope to get out next month as well. While the cover for a fourth book is already finished, I haven't decided yet whether or not I'll continue the series beyond the first three books. Greenwood Cove is taking some heat because it's written in Sunny's native dialect; apparently some folks are intolerant of the way mountain folk talk. Oddly enough, when it was in the early stages of being developed, I ran the first few chapters by some Australian friends and they had no problems understanding the slang or the story.

At any rate, I'm working on a blog post discussing why I wrote Sunny the way I did (short answer: she came to me that way) and the value of the local speech, in part to spread a little tolerance and in part because readers always seem to be curious about the decisions authors make.

Here's the (tentative) order of stories I'll be working on this year, barring any additions to the Celia Roman pen name:

Of course, I usually work on several manuscripts at once so the order isn't exact. For example, right now I'm working on several short stories (including one set in Sunny's world), Cemetery Hill, and The Gathering Storm. While I'm not actively working on The Master Vampire on a regular basis, I do bring it out and fiddle with it once a month or so, and I'm starting to do some serious development on Sweet Surrender and Redemption as well as future stories.

Hey, it's a weird process, but it works for me.

The audio edition of Alien Mine (The Pruxnae, Book 3), written under the name Lucy Varna, is now available at Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. This series is now all caught up on all the formats I intend to publish through the fourth book, except for any bundling (e.g. an omnibus edition). Sweet Surrender will be the final book in the series. I currently have no plans to continue the story world beyond that, although I do have plenty of ideas should readers wish for more stories.

A Giveaway Celebrating Three Years as a Published Author

A Giveaway Celebrating Three Years as a Published Author

Three years ago this month, I published my first novel, The Prophecy. It was a huge step for me. I’d always wanted to write fiction, but could never get past the initial idea and first few scenes of a story.

That changed in November 2013, when I had a huge epiphany: writing fiction wasn’t all that different from writing non-fiction, something I’d been doing for a while. All I had to do was translate the outlining and other skills I’d developed as a genealogist, first as an amateur and later as a professional, into stories.

Seven weeks later, I’d completed the first draft of The Prophecy. I’m not going to pretend it was easy. It most certainly was not, but it was one of the most satisfying feats I’ve ever accomplished.

Over the past three years, I’ve published a total of eighteen novels and novellas as well as more than half a dozen shorter stories under three pen names, Lucy Varna, V.R. Cumming, and Celia Roman. None of that would’ve been possible without you, the reader.

To celebrate my three year anniversary as an author, I’m holding two very special giveaways for all my newsletter subscribers, one for readers living in the United States and another for readers outside the US. One grand prize is available for each set of subscribers:

  • For US residents (you must have a US mailing address and a valid email address): One Kindle Paperwhite, plus one ebook edition of any of my currently available novels or novellas, your choice.
  • For non-US residents (you must have a valid email address): A $25 Amazon.com gift certificate, plus one ebook edition of any of my currently available novels or novellas, your choice.

Rules: The giveaway ends at midnight EST on February 28, 2017. To be eligible, you must subscribe to one (not all!) of the newsletters for any of my pen names (Lucy Varna, V.R. Cumming, Celia Roman). To enter, comment below using the email address used to subscribe to said newsletter. In the comments, include your state (if you’re a US resident) or your country (if you’re a non-US resident) and the name of the pen name whose books you read (e.g. Canada, Celia Roman) so that I can verify each entrant’s status as a newsletter subscriber. Additional comments are welcome. Winners will be chosen at random within one calendar week of the entry period’s closing and notified shortly thereafter by email. I reserve the right to choose another winner should the initial winner(s) not respond to the notifying email within three days of it being sent. The notifying email will come from cd [at] cdwatsonauthor [dot] com, so add that addy to your list of safe email addresses. Winners will be probably announced in various places online (this blog and the blogs of my pen names, social media sites, and my various fiction newsletters), so be prepared to have your first name or initials and country of origin shared.

That’s pretty much it.

I know you’re wondering why I’m not opening this giveaway up to non-subscribers, and the answer is simple. My newsletter subscribers are my most loyal readers. They’re the ones who’ve helped me build my writing career by buying, reading, and reviewing my books. Without them, I would’ve failed a long time ago, so it’s only appropriate that this giveaway be centered on my biggest fans.

If you know of someone who would be interested in this giveaway, please encourage them to read one of my books first (The Prophecy and The Vampire’s Pet are free, and the others are not expensive). If they enjoy those, then they are free to subscribe to the pertinent newsletter and comment below to enter the giveaway.

To be honest, though, if I were looking to attract new readers with this giveaway, I would’ve set it up differently. So share or don’t; I won’t be offended either way. This is simply my way of expressing gratitude for three wonderful years writing and publishing stories.

Thank you, my friends, and good luck. Here’s to three more years!

P.S. I get a lot of spam on this blog, so comments are held in moderation until approved. All comments that aren’t spam are approved, but it may take me a few hours to sort through everything. Thanks for your patience! I should’ve mentioned this at the start. 🙂

Book and Author News

Book and Author News

Lots going on across my various pen names. First up, two GoodReads giveaways, one for A Warrior's Touch (The Pruxnae Series, Book 4, written under the name Lucy Varna) and a second for The New Vampire (The Vampyr Series, Book 3, written under the name V.R. Cumming). Both begin on January 10 and end on January 20. Three copies are up for grabs to US residents. Click below to enter. Good luck to each of you!

A Warrior’s Touch giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

A Warrior's Touch by Lucy Varna

A Warrior's Touch

by Lucy Varna

Giveaway ends January 20, 2017.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

The New Vampire giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The New Vampire by V.R. Cumming

The New Vampire

by V.R. Cumming

Giveaway ends January 20, 2017.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

The print edition of Greenwood Cove, a brand new Urban (Contemporary) Fantasy released under the name Celia Roman, is now available for $11.99 through CreateSpace. It will be available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online retailers within the next week or so. 

The digital edition has been set for a tentative release date in early February, pending completion of the first draft for the third book in the series. I'm planning four books total for the initial release period. Scheduled titles are: Greenwood Cove, The Deep Wood, Cemetery Hill, and Witch Hollow.

The audiobook edition of A Warrior's Touch is finally here and available at Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. Like previous audiobooks in the Pruxnae Series, A Warrior's Touch was narrated by Angel Clark and Matthew Josdal.

Angel is now hard at work on the audiobook edition of Alien Mine, which will feature her and a brand new male narrator. I'll have more details on production at a later date.

A Warrior's Touch (The Pruxnae, Book 4) by Lucy Varna
Book News

Book News

Here's a round up of news about the books I write.

Alien Mine, the third novel in the Pruxnae Series, was released on 21 October 2016. The digital edition is available exclusively at Amazon for $3.99 and is also available in the Kindle Unlimited program through the end of the year. The print edition can be purchased for $11.99. An audio edition is in the works. The first scene can be read here.

The audio edition of A Warrior's Touch (The Pruxnae, Book 4) is nearing the final production phases. Look for more information on it to be announced soon.

The next release under the Lucy Varna name will be The Gathering Storm, the seventh installment in the Daughters of the People Series. While no release date has been set, it could arrive in stores as early as January or February 2017.

Sunshine Walkingstick popped into my head in September 2014. Over the past two years, I've been working on developing her world and eventually decided to write and release a four to five book series under a separate pen name, Celia Roman. I had planned on releasing these without telling anyone I wrote them, as one of the many experiments writers are prone to conducting.

Instead, I'm releasing Greenwood Cove, the first book in the Sunshine Walkingstick Series, one chapter at a time throughout the month of November. The first chapter was released on Halloween day, a fitting date considering that the series is Urban Fantasy. Read it here and subscribe to my newsletter to receive a notice in your inbox when each chapter is released. 

I have a couple of GoodReads giveaways coming up in a few days and will do my best to put those giveaways on the sidebar so everyone will have a chance to enter. Plus, I have a few more goodies and surprises in store for fans, old and new alike.

A few months ago , I moved into an historic family home and have been (mostly) without Internet access since. I hope to begin blogging again soon and staying in touch more frequently on social media. If you've tried to visit me on the web under my pen names (Lucy Varna, V.R. Cumming, and Celia Roman), you've probably been disappointed to find the pages either deleted or inactive. That's because I've been trying to consolidate all my social media adventures in one place, so now I have one Facebook page, one Twitter feed, and one Pinterest account to accommodate all my pen names. This is much easier for me to manage and much easier for fans to follow.

More news soon!