Tag Archives: writing

Bound (Bound Trilogy Book One) FREE for a limited time!

I know, I know. Too much promotion here these days, right?

I promise I’ll be back with something else when I have anything interesting to share with you. Right now I’m buckling down, trying to avoid wasting time on social media, and working on getting the first three books I’ll be releasing under my pen name ready for publication. There’s a lot going on here… it’s just behind the scenes.

I do have one bit of excitement to share, though! For the first time ever, Bound is free on all of its regular ebook retailers! Whether you read on Kobo, iBooks, Nook, Kindle, or those smaller ones whose names I can never remember, I’m giving the ebook away.

I wish I could say I had a big strategic reason for doing this, but honestly? It was the end of winter, I was in a funk, and not much lifts my spirits like giving something away. And between this and the paperback giveaway I just wrapped up with my newsletter type people*, I’m having a pretty good time.

Besides, we’re coming up on Bound’s third anniversary as a published book. Why not invite some new people in to explore this world and get to know my beloved characters?

So if you haven’t started the series yet, check out the links at books2read.com/bound. If you have read and enjoyed these books, why not offer a recommendation to a book-loving friend? This offer is only going to be on for a few weeks, and when it’s over, I don’t know whether or when it will happen again.

Enjoy!

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*Newsletter subscribers get the VIP treatment. Giveaways, bonuses, free stuff… want to join in? Visit my site to sign up, then watch your inbox (or spam folder) for the confirmation email. Add me to your contacts so you don’t miss anything, and enjoy!


Attraction, Inspiration, and Crap I Found on the Road

Here’s the weirdest thing I’m willing to tell you about myself: I collect stuff off the street. Metal stuff, mostly, that looks like it fell off a vehicle.

It’s not as weird as it… okay, it is, but I can explain. I walk a lot. Like, almost every day, weather and health permitting. In the summer I have a lovely local boardwalk around a pond I can visit. And if I’m in the mood for treasure hunting, there’s a rocky beach not far away where I can find sea glass handmade by the ocean from the beer bottles people toss off of the nearby scenic lookout.

But winter means wandering the streets. Not much to see there.

Except that one day I noticed a ball bearing at my feet. I picked it up thinking one of my kids would find it cool. Trucks are kind of his thing.

And I liked it. It felt nifty in my hand. Really smooth and heavy and different.

So I kept it, and decided it would be fun to keep my eyes open for more (while trying not to worry about whatever vehicles were shedding these things around town). Sort of like wandering the beach looking for sea glass and shells, but more casual.

…And with more potential judgement from passing drivers who saw me bending over to pick up dirty metal garbage, but whatever. I have zero reputation to maintain, as far as I know.

Long story short, once I started looking, I started seeing. A lot of it was stuff I definitely didn’t want. Plastic bits (I mean, please, I DO have standards). Other crap that blew out of someone’s trash bags on garbage day.*

But I sometimes find what I’m looking for.

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I mean, not to brag, but guys? I’m kinda the Little Mermaid of crap that fell off of poorly-maintained vehicles. You want thingamabobs? I’ve got… well, three, but I’m getting more. Soon.

There is a point to all of this.

The thing is, I never saw any of this stuff lying around before I started paying attention to it. Just like how I rarely found sand dollars on the beach in Nova Scotia until I decided my prize was there if I kept my eyes open. After that, it was rare that I didn’t go home with at least one.

Same with sea glass.

Same with inspiration.

There was a time when I clung tight to the one story idea I had because I thought it was all I was ever going to get. This was THE THING. The story I had to make absolutely perfect because there was no guarantee that the well went deeper than this. I was miserly. I gave up frequently because the one perfect idea in my head never came out right on paper, and OH GOD WHAT IF I BREAK IT?!

Now? Now I believe ideas are everywhere, just waiting to be spotted. I don’t expect them to be served to me on a silver platter, though sometimes they are.** But I trust that if I keep my eyes open, if I believe inspiration is out there, my brain is capable of taking two random things I’ve seen and making something brilliant out of them.

Or something that’s the equivalent of plastic crap, but the point is that the treasures are out there. But I will never see them if I don’t walk around with my eyes and my mind open, believing they’re there.

I worry less about taking a chance and messing up, because there’s more.

I think this applies to a lot of other things in life, too. Like opportunities. Now, big opportunities are more frequent and easier to accept for some people than others, no question. Different people will have different doors opening for us, and not everyone gets kicked out of the nest with a great education or a “small” loan from his or her parents or a rolodex full of high-rolling contacts. But we all make choices that affect us, and we will have some kind of opportunity for something. But will we see it if we have our eyes closed, expecting nothing good come to us? Or worse, if we believe we don’t deserve opportunities?

I’m guilty of that one, and I’ve likely overlooked a lot of chances for success because I thought they weren’t meant for someone like me. But the times when I have believed in myself and been open to opportunity–to saying no to agents and publishers and going it alone, for example, or to joining in on a *shudder* group project with other amazing authors–have been very rewarding.

And if I believe that I don’t only get one shot, that success is not my only motherf*$%in’ option (contrary to what one Eminem might preach in that one very catchy tune) because I will see other opportunities, I can relax about messing up, take more chances, and dream bigger.

Or luck. If I believe I’m lucky and define luck as finding ball bearings on the street, look how lucky I am! If I believe I’m unlucky and won’t find any, I suspect the odds of me seeing them drop significantly. I just won’t be looking for them if I don’t believe I’m lucky enough to have them appear in my path.

What if I broadened my definition of luck? What if I embraced it and didn’t feel guilty about believing I’m lucky/smart/observant/whatever word I choose for it, and really stayed open to what might be out there?

I don’t know a lot about this law of attraction and manifestation stuff so many of my online acquaintances talk about all the time. Do I think the universe is a big genie waiting to grant my wishes if only I focus hard enough on what I want? Do I think opportunity and inspiration and luck and MASSIVE WEALTH spontaneously appear because I desire them enough?

Not really, no.

BUT.

I do see the underlying, practical logic of it. The psychology of it, maybe. If I focus on the good things in my life, if I’m grateful for what I have, I’m going to be more aware of them. Kind of like how you never notice blue Volkswagens until you buy one, and then they’re everywhere. They were there all along. You didn’t call them into being because you were thinking about them. You simply see what you’re paying attention to.

Inspiration.

Opportunities.

Luck.

Metal crap on the street, man.

So no, I’m not going all woo-woo mystical and trying to like… vibrate… or whatever it is. But I think, thanks to a ball bearing I almost kicked into the gutter a few months ago, that I kind of get it.

Good things are out there. Utter crap is out there, too, if we’re being honest. But I’m trying really hard to stay focused on the good.

Because what I focus on is what I see. It’s what I get more of.

I’m just keeping my eyes open.

——

*Though true story, I once saw an empty Vienna sausage can in a snowbank and sincerely hoped–and still hope–that my mental image of some guy wandering down main street casually sucking tiny processed meat sticks directly from the can as he strolled along and then tossing the garbage aside is accurate. It could happen.

*In bed, once. You can’t beat that kind of service.


COVER REVEAL: Beast & Beauty by Kate Sparkes

Hey! That’s me! 😀

Here’s the story. I mean, not the story… that’s coming February 23. But the story ABOUT the story.

I’ve been hard at work on my vampires since October (and before that, but that’s another story). I love them. They’re wonderful. They’re dark and delicious and bloody and sexy and fast-paced and they’re TOTALLY my front-burner project right now.

But isn’t it fun to play in another sandbox sometimes, just to get a break?

Back in December, I was asked whether I’d be interested in participating in a fairy tale romance short story anthology. Word count under 8,000 words, due in January.

WOULD I? I love fairy tales! I love romance! And the kicker was that I could do whatever I wanted, including setting it in one of my worlds.

It would have been perfect had I been able to come up with a story I thought I could do justice to in that small word count, but I couldn’t. I mean, I could have told the story, sure. But the one I wanted to tell would have felt really sparse and rushed at that length.*

But once those ideas start bouncing around, it’s hard to set them aside. Especially when it’s Christmas, you’re supposed to be “off work,” and you’re itching to write something a little different from that Urban Fantasy you’re working on.

Or maybe that’s just me.

In any case, Beast & Beauty was born. It looks nothing like the original concept I came up with for a twist on Beauty and the Beast, but I’m totally in love with it. It’s set in Elurien several years before Into Elurien, in the midst of the monster revolution. Queen Verelle is very much alive and showing her true colours, and a timid cervid named Nava is about to get way more adventure than her heart ever desired.

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Can’t wait for a bit of sweet fairy tale romance, big adventure, and another visit to Elurien?

Well, I’ve got good news. This gorgeous little novella is coming on February 23, 2017… and it’s going to be absolutely FREE.

Yep, this one is a newsletter exclusive, and I’ll be sending the links out on my birthday (because hey, I like giving gifts as much as I like getting them).

Not signed up yet? Visit my website and click the newsletter tab at the top. Once you’ve confirmed your subscription (check your spam and promo folders), the gears at Mailchimp will start turning, and you’ll get two free Bound trilogy prequel stories in about 24 hours.

…and this story on the 23rd.

See you then!

*truth be told, there were two I wanted to tell. The other, a revised and expanded version of my flash fiction story “Cinder Ella” will be next, and will likely go out to my pen name’s newsletter list… when she has one.


Batten Down the Hatches. The Squirrels and Pigeons Have Taken Over.

But we’re going to finish this post series.

I said we would talk about the things I do to help myself get something productive done during a work day. And I will. But first, I want to be completely honest.

I have days when none of it works.

This week, for example. I’m having a rough time because it’s a bad week for migraine symptoms like brain fog and confusion, and it’s a bad week for inattention. Blame hormones, blame the moon, it happens every month. And it costs me massively in productivity. On Monday I couldn’t do anything because I couldn’t string a coherent sentence together. Tuesday I kind of made up for it with almost 6,000 words in revisions. Wednesday was a write-off again. And today I’m struggling through the fog. Part of the problem is that I need a new scene, and my brain isn’t capable of putting one together. It’s a whole different ballgame from rewrites.

But we’re not here to talk about brain fog (though if you want to know how I deal with that, I’ll put my new video at the bottom of this post). We’re here to talk about the good days. Days when I can get things done in theory, but my pigeon-filled brain is scattered and I’m distracted by everything from an election I can’t even participate in to squirrels to “hey, I haven’t had poutine all week, is 10 AM too early?”

And again, please know that I am not good at following my own advice. At best I might manage to use a few of these tips and get some stuff done and feel guilty for not doing more.

We all do the best we can, right? And hope the little habits build into big success.

Here we go.

  1. Plan my day the night before.

I do this in my bullet journal pretty consistently. I don’t handle surprises well, and need to know what’s coming. Also, being able to look at my page, see what’s planned, and get into it is way more streamlined than trying to figure it out before coffee and then deciding to aim low. Some people might be fine with just writing down their top three goals for their work day, knowing they’ll remember other stuff. I, on the other hand, plan it all out. What my kids are doing. Who has gym tomorrow. Whose laundry needs to get done. Check-boxes for feeding the dogs twice, taking my medication, taking my vitamins, checking the mail. What scene I need to plan. What I need to do after that. What I need to plan for the next day.

When I know I’m going to be scattered (like this week), I’ll go so far as to create an ideal hourly breakdown of what I should be doing. I never achieve it, but it removes the need to decide what I should be doing, and that reduces my anxiety a whole lot.

2.  Leave social media alone.

I was doing SO well with this for a while, and it made a huge difference. I stopped using my phone as an alarm clock so I wouldn’t be tempted to check it first thing in the morning. And I still do that. It charges downstairs overnight. But though I find I’m far more productive if I don’t check facebook, email, etc. until after work, I’m a bit addicted. I get twitchy if I don’t check. My brain craves the distraction even though I know I’m not missing anything important (sorry, friends). I try every morning to leave it alone, and I usually fail. But it does work when I succeed. I’m more focused and more productive if I’m not waiting for people to respond to something I posted.

I do have a better option. I have a morning routine that involves meditation, reading, breakfast, and stretching before the kids get up. It’s lovely, and my brain never lets me stick to it. Work in progress, right?

3. Music.

I know most people recommend classical music for focus, and that does help me sometimes. But if I’m drafting, I actually find that I need something loud and heavy, complete with lyrics. It’s like my brain needs stimulation that it can drown out, and somehow that lets me focus on work. This is not a tip that will work for everyone, but if you’re not finding that ambient/classical/whatever is working for you, why not give it a shot? I’ve been enjoying Google Play’s Top Charts > Metal. Not my favourite genre, but maybe that’s why I can tune it out.

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Someitmes I get this weird feeling like Sum 41 has a new album out.

4. Timed sprints.

Sometimes the idea of just sitting and working is overwhelming. Breaking the day into short work sprints is sometimes the only way I can get started. A goal of 4,000 words can seem huge if I’m staring at a blank screen, but I can make myself write for 25 minutes. And if even that seems overwhelming on a bad day, I make it ten. Or five. But once I get the words started, they usually want to keep coming. This works best for me in the draft stage, but I have used focus sprints to get me going on edits, brainstorming, etc. Not much luck so far using them on things like taxes and emails, but maybe that will come.

4. Writing down distractions.

This is one I came up with myself, though I’m sure I’m not the first to do it. I keep a stack of post-it notes on my desk. When a distraction pops up (gotta check facebook, crap I forgot to change the filter in the Brita, I really need to get those last Christmas decorations put away, better call about that appointment I’ve been putting off…), I write it on a post-it and stick it to the wall. Right where I can see it. Does that sound weird? It works for me. See, if I just write it down and put it aside, it will keep bugging me because my brain is all WHAT IF WE FORGET?!! But if it’s visible, it’s acknowledged. It’s a thing I’m saying I will get to, and it loses some of its power as a distraction. Then, after my word sprint is done, I’ll pick one quick thing and do it. Kind of a reward (though social media is a dangerous one).


5. Just get started.

I waste more time at the beginning of my day than any other. Maybe I’d be better off if I could just get out of bed, make coffee, and work, but my day starts with other stuff. Get the kids up, make breakfast, make lunches, yadda yadda… I’m primed for distraction before I sit at my desk, and then it’s hard to get any kind of focus. But if I can turn off the baddistractions (leave the phone upstairs, close browsers) and get into the good ones (music and putting those notes in view), I might find my flow.

So there we go. On an ideal day, I would get up early and not touch my phone. I would do my perfect morning routine to focus and inspire me, have a coffee and a healthy breakfast, enjoy time with my kids, send them off to school, and slip into my office to get straight to work. On rare days when that has worked for me, I’ve had amazing results.

So why can’t I do it every day? Ask my brain. I have no idea. I don’t choose to do less than me best, man. But I accept that I am a work in progress. And every morning I have another chance to try again.

Any tips to add? Thoughts on productivity that work for you? I’d love to hear them!

Here’s that video, if anyone wants it. It’s long. I couldn’t brain, so there are awkward pauses and stalled sentences… You can see why writing r hard on these days, but this is how I cope.


Sabbatical

You guys get the update before YouTube subscribers this time. I tried to do a video about this, about goals and taking advice and deciding what really makes you happy rather than just thinking you want what everyone else thinks will make them happy… and it just didn’t work out.

I can’t talk about it coherently yet.

But I did manage to post about it in my Facebook group this morning, and it seemed like a post that was worth sharing here (with slight modifications).

For quite a while I’ve been putting pressure on myself to do everything quickly. To follow the rules that say “publish or perish.” To have less than a year between book releases in a massive trilogy, to hold myself to deadlines that are supposed to be helpful, and to do it all with a smile while achieving my absolute best work.

It’s insane. It really is. For some people all of this works. Tight schedules. Multiple series. Cranking out books, drawing from the creative fountain without needing a break. But I’m learning that for me, it’s wrong. Everyone is unique, and has unique needs, gifts, and challenges. I have a family that doesn’t get the best of me when I’m buried under stress. I have physical pain that cuts me off from work, family, and life, and that’s made worse by tension and stress. I have depression and anxiety, and thanks to the pressure I put on myself to finish the Bound trilogy on time, my writing has become a real trigger for that.

I used to write to heal myself. Now I sit at the computer and feel like crying because I’m scared of not living up to my own expectations, because the words won’t come, because my brain wants to focus on ANYTHING but that blank screen.
And that’s wrong. This is not what stories should be for me. I shouldn’t feel like I need to hide from a part of my spirit.

So I’m taking a bit of a sabbatical.

I’m cancelling edits I had scheduled for a book that’s been suffering under my inability to let my imagination loose. I’m clearing the decks. And for a while—maybe a few weeks, maybe a few months—I’m not going to be “a writer.”

I’ll still be here.

I’m still going to write. I’ll post more on my blog. Maybe I’ll pick at that long-suffering book or my B project, but only if I feel drawn to them. Maybe I’ll take on flash fiction challenges that have no chance of making money, so they can be purely creative enterprises to share. I’ll read about writing craft and take time to apply the lessons. I’ll research whatever topics float my boat on any given day, and try to learn a new language. Hell, maybe I’ll try poetry. You never know.

Maybe I’ll learn to love reading again when there’s no reason to be competitive or to compare my work to anyone else’s. Maybe I can learn to lose myself in other people’s worlds.

Basically, I’m taking time to get healthy. To turn writing back into a playground rather than an assembly line. When I get back to “for real” writing, my hope is that the books I create for you will be filled with more magic, more surprises, more love, and more generous stories than I can even imagine right now.

It’s scary. Deadlines and publishing schedules feel so essential when writing puts food on the table. But my work deserves me at my best, and so do my readers. So here we go. A fresh, unexpected adventure.

This blog will be more active as I try to recover my creative spark and my will to write, as I get my headaches and brain fog and ongoing attention issues under control (or learn how to live and work with them. Sometimes you have to embrace what you can’t change, right?). I’ll post any new fiction stuff here, let you know how things are going.

For readers, this won’t make a huge difference in terms of when the next book comes out. Waiting for me to get better and do my best work shouldn’t work out to a longer delay than a miserable me forcing out junk and having to repair it. And the end product will be so much better.

The stories are there. I just have to get myself ready to welcome them into the world.

Hold on tight. It’s going to be a crazy ride.


First Draft Hell

It’s Camp NaNoWriMo time, and oodles of writers all over the world are in a special kind of first draft hell. As we approach the midpoints of our stories, plotters and pantsers alike might be feeling tempted to throw in the towel.

So that’s what this week’s video is about. A look at the things I tend to struggle with as I fight my way through first drafts (and it usually is a fight–none of this comes easy to me) and how I try to change my perspective so I’ll keep fighting.

Enjoy!


Writing on Summer Vacation: Day One

7:00 AM – Okay. I said I wanted to start writing at 7:30. But I need a shower… I can do this.

7:05 – I know I said no social media before work, but just a quick check won’t hurt. Huh. A reviewer needs a Kindle copy of Into Elurien. Guess that’s important, since she’s booked a date on the series blog tour. *sniffs self* Shower first.

7:30 – Definitely need to let my hair air-dry today.  Better to look like a frizzy purple buffalo than to spend another 20 minutes doing that (and overheating myself in the process). Speaking of heat, I know I had shorts here somewhere…

7:45 – Excellent. Everyone’s still asleep. *stomach grumbles* Dammit. Okay, invisaligns out, make a shake with greek yogurt to keep me full a bit longer (I hope), drink that and an iced coffee. I miss being able to sit and sip while I work. Brush teeth, invisaligns back in. Snap self in face with tiny elastic. Perfect.

8:05 – Okay. Writing. Annnnnnd the dogs want out. Might as well check Facebook quickly while they OH MY GOODNESS THERE’S A RUNNING APP WHERE YOU PRETEND YOU’RE IN A FANTASY SETTING AND GET TO GO ON QUESTS?!* I must investigate this immediately.

8:15 – Oops, forgot to put the laundry in. Better do that now if it’s going to line-dry today.

8:20 – Guess I should send that email.

8:30 – Annnd one kid is up. He’s pretty self-sufficient. They both are. My brain is a far greater obstacle than my boys are. It still doesn’t want to settle in and get this chapter fixed so I can move on to fresh drafting. Maybe I’ll warm up with a blog post, see if other kid wakes up. Then I can start after breakfast…

8:45 – (Now) This is my brain on trying to work. If you’ve read “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield, you know about resistance. I get it bad every time I try to start working. My brain is scattered, no matter what I do. Pomodoro sprints, meditation, visualization to get myself excited about writing a scene, planning, not planning…they help, but not much. On days like today, when my brain is fogged up and I’m recovering from Sunday’s migraine and the world seems to be moving around me at confusing speeds, it’s hard to start. I have zero focus. I’m scattered. My head feels like it’s physically stuffed with cotton. Possibly cotton candy.

The pink kind.

So what am I going to do about it?

I’m going to go make breakfast for Thing 2, I’m going to try to forget how much I wish I had a huge cup of coffee at my desk, and I’m going to publish this post, get my ass back here, put some music on, and work.

Maybe I won’t get the two hours in that I wanted today. Maybe I won’t get this scene revised (quite doubtful, actually, given the speed my brain is working at this morning). But I’m going to try. I’m going to prove to myself, to my muse, to my family, and anyone else who’s watching that I’m committed. I am doing this.

And step by tiny, painful step, I’m going to get through this draft.

Wish me luck.

 

 


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