Monday, March 11, 2013


Those that have spent any time reading my blog know that I’ve queried a time or two.  Nothing very serious, though.  Why?  Well, because as much fun as FAERIE BAD LUCK was, it’s a series.  There’s no way I could cut the major plot arc down to anything fewer than six books, and for a debut author, I’ll be lucky if I get a contract for three.

Then there’s the fact that, as much as I enjoy Nym and her world, I’m not really in love with it.  If I had to, I could probably produce a book a year, but it’s not what I really want to work on.

What I really want to work on is Jacky and Kassidy.  Two very different heroines in two very different worlds.  But, Jacky is like Nym.  Her story can’t be told in three books or less.

Kassidy, though…Oh, Kassidy.

Kassidy is the current love of my life.  The first book can stand on its own.  It doesn’t have the most satisfactory ending, but it ends well.  That’s a good thing for a debut author to have.  But more then that, I can fit a smaller series arc quite nicely into three books.  In fact, those three books are plotted, and I’m well into the first draft of book two.  

My goal is to get books two and three drafted this year, before I start querying book one.


Partly for the satisfaction of being able to say “SPELL AND BULLET is complete at X-number of words, and the first of a planned trilogy.  Which is also complete.”  Because anyone can write one book, but finishing a trilogy?  That right there, that’s impressive, and shows a dedication to my craft.  A dedication that says “I’m in this for the long haul, and willing to work my ass off.”

But it’s mostly because I can.  And because I want to.  Kassidy and her motley crew keep me entertained, and that’s half the point of writing fiction.

Monday, February 18, 2013

That Thing About Gender

Once upon a time, I had one of my writer friends point out that I needed more women in my urban fantasy.  I agreed with her and tried to gender bend some character, and it just didn’t work well.  It changed the group dynamics, and in some cases the characters were simple too male to even attempt gender bending.

That draft was eventually tossed out the window and blown apart with a grenade launcher, but I the other night a noticed the same trend going on the current draft of #TBTRTD.

So what is it about surrounding my female heroine with men?

It’s certainly not for the harem factor.  The guys aren’t there to provide a stable of handsome men for my character to pick from.  Most of them wouldn’t sleep with her even if she were interested in getting jiggy with them.  

Then I got to thinking.  I’ve been in the process of re-reading some of my favorite urban fantasy series, as well as starting new ones, and the trend is the same in a lot of cases.  Savvy, sexy, kick-ass heroine surrounded by men.  That’s not to say there’s a complete lack of female supporting cast, cause that’s simply not true.  But they do seem to be a little testosterone laden.

Last night, at “why am I still awake and working” o’clock, it finally clicked.

 It’s the playing field.

Now, I’m all for girl power, and gender equality in the work place, but the fact remains that there are some areas where men still rule.  In a world full of monsters, it’s the men who step up the came to hunt down the baddies, play the hero and save the day.  When you throw a kick-ass woman into the mix, she’s going to be surrounded by a majority of men.  That’s just how it works.

But, you know, it can be used to emphasize that woman are capable not just of taking care of themselves but of being the ones to save the day.  And they’ll do it in style.  

Monday, February 4, 2013

To Phoenix and Back: A Road Trip

Kim Harrison recently released her eleventh Hollows novel, Ever After.  I’ve been eagerly awaiting this book.  I re-read the last six books, stayed up until 1am Monday/Tuesday night/morning so I could download the book the instant it was released and start reading it.  Then I got so sucked into it that I ended up staying up until 6pm Tuesday night to finish it.  I was up for 32 hours, just so I could read the new book.

I’m a fan.  To say the least.  

I’m never surprised when an author’s book tour fails to take them through Salt Lake.  I mean, it’s Salt Lake.  The big out of state authors rarely come here, probably due to the belief that there’s no good coffee.  (This is a lie, out of state authors, we have some really great coffee here!)  For Kim Harrison, her tour was taking her to Phoenix and Denver.  Sad, but like I said, not at all surprising.

I was pleased as punch when she Ustreamed the Q&A from Seattle.  There were great questions, and I got to hear her talk about her books and characters.  I was happy with this.  

Friday night, my sister came over, and we spent some time doing things.  Then, knowing she’s almost as big a fan of the Hollows as myself, I had her sit down and watch the Ustream with me.  I don’t remember how exactly it happened.  It might have been an “I wish we could go to one of the signings,” but somehow we decided it’d be a grand idea to do a road trip to go to one of the signings.  

My vote had been for Denver, because it was closer.  The problem being my sister has classes she didn’t want to miss.  

There was a signing in Phoenix on Sunday.

We could do it.  We could drive down on Saturday, staying for the Q&A, get some books signed, then drive back.  I’m a night person, so staying up late to get the sister home in time for her classes wouldn’t have been a big deal.  

There was some vacillating, but in the end, the trip was a go!  (The actual text my sister sent me to tell me she was game was “Let’s do this chumps! Leeeerooooy Jeeeeeeeeeenkins!” If you’re not a gamer, I can forgive you for not getting the reference.)

We set out Saturday into the rain and fog.  It was damn nice getting away from Salt Lake and all the nasty haze.  Southern Utah, what we could see of it, was beautiful even if it was foggy in patches and cloudy everywhere else.  In Kanab, we took an accidental detour.  Instead of going east toward Page, we kept going south, on US 89A, through the Kaibab national forest.  (We’d gotten distracted by the need for food.  On the way back, when we got distracted again by food, we decided that we made really bad drivers when we were hungry, since we became very single minded.)  It was beautiful with the trees and the fog.  Lord of the Rings jokes were made.  

The most nerve wracking, and at the same time totally amazing, point was when we came out of the forest.  The shoulder dropped away on both sides so the road looked like it was spanning a small land bridge, with fog banks on either side.  It made for a very tunnel-like experience, and left us both wondering what sort of view was hidden behind the fog, and just how far the drop off the edge would be if the car went off the road.

It was spectacular.  

Outside Kaibab forest, still on 89A, there was this sign for “Cave Dwellers.”  There were some very impressive rock formations that we got to see because we’d dropped below the cloud/fog line.  Canyons. Lots and lots of seemingly flat landscape that wasn’t flat at all once you were on top of the rills and gullies scattered across it.  

We were really amused when we finally joined up with US 89 again.  It’d been pretty obvious we’d gone off the beaten track, though neither of us cared.  It’d been worth the detour to get a look-see at some of the sights.  Sightseeing wasn’t the point of the trip, but it was good to see something, and it made the missed turn worth it.

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful.  Lots of driving up into fog and then down into rain.  We arrived in Phoenix around 10pm, making our drive 11 hours, with short pit stops for food, gas, and potty breaks.  

We were absolutely floored by the temperatures.  In Flagstaff, we stripped out of our coats and scarfs and marveled at the 40+ degree temps.  In Phoenix the next day, it was 60.  There were flowers! And sunshine!  And a delightful lack of inversion haze!  And there were cacti!  Those big ones with the arms that you always see in cartoons, but I’d never seen in person before. 

I squealed the first time I saw one.  No lie.  (Cause I’m a dork like that.)

Sunday morning, we set out to find the Barnes and Noble where the signing was going to take place.  The sister bought Ever After, and I was disappointed that they didn’t have any of the Hollows Insider in stock.  So I ordered it online.  Anyway, the nice lady that was so impressed with our driving down from Northern Utah just for the signing told us to come back early so we could nab good seats.  We’d planned on finding a local coffee shop to hang out at, but we figured it might be better to just hang out at the Starbucks so we’d get good seats.

And boy did we.  Right on the front row. (I'm in the purple and black, the sister is in the hat, and we're both doing the Hollows signature bunny eared kiss-kiss.)  Next to a guy with family in the Ogden area.  The same Ogden area I happen to live in.  Cue It’s a Small World.

The awesome thing about the signing, and made the trip worth it just for that, was she answered my question.  Well, not really a question.  I asked her if she could give us the elevator pitch for book twelve.  And she did! The extended version, even.  

Is it 2014 yet?  I want the next book now

Since we’d gotten to B&N pretty early in the day, we didn’t have to wait forever in line to get our books signed.  They’d been handing out wrist bands with letters on it.  A’s first, then B’s.  We were B’s.  We got our books signed, and she was impressed by our dedication to drive 11 hours in one day to come out and see her.  Then we got our picture taken with her.  I thought it very sweet of her to stand up to take a group picture.  

Then we started the long trek home.  

I think we would have made it if we hadn’t hit snow right outside Kanab.  It was bad.  Blinding white in the headlights, the road vanishing.  After creeping along at ten miles an hour we decided to turn back and get a motel for the night.  Our mom did some online mapping (from home, she didn't go on the trip with us) and told us we could go through Hurricane to reach I-15, which would take us all the way home.  We set out again, and hit snow again.  At least this time there were tire tracks in the snow I could follow, which I did.  What should have been a half-hour trip turned into over an hour, but we made it down into Hurricane without much issue. 

On the interstate, we hit snow again right outside Cedar City.  It was 1am, and while I could have kept going, there was no chance of the snow letting up the further north we went, and Cedar City was our best choice for hotels.  So we stayed there the night.  The sister was going to miss her classes, despite our efforts to get her home.  

Monday we set out bright and early.  The roads were slushy most of the way, but we made good time regardless.  

Then we were home.  How’s that for a climatic ending?

It was a great trip, and getting out of state was good for both our souls, I think.  It’d been a long time since I’d traveled last, and I’d missed it.  The spontaneity of it was a surprise, and a lot of fun, too.  

Next time we go to one of Kim Harrison’s book signings (we’re planning on going for the last book in the Hollows series) we’re going to do a bit of advanced planning.  Just so we have more time to enjoy the sights and do things other than sit in the car all damn day.  It’ll be good.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Plotting Backward

Anyone that’s been following my blog or knows me know that I’m a panster. As in flying by the seat of my pants.  I don’t do a whole lot of plotting, and I don’t outline at all except for revisions.  I always know how a story starts, and have a sort of idea of how I want it to end.  Everything that happens in the middle I just sort of pull from my ass.

I’m going to be trying something different for the Kassidy books.  I’d like it to be an open-ended trilogy.  It’ll work with the series arc I have planned, and I’d like for there to be more books in the series than three.  There will be more in the series than three.  

Here’s the thing.  If I land a contract Kassidy (after finding an agent, of course) it’ll most likely be for two to three books.  If for whatever reason Kassidy doesn’t sell, I won’t get a new contract for more books.  That actually happens a lot in the publishing world, and I don’t want to frustrate future readers by leaving them hanging on the edge of a cliff at the end of the third book when there’s no guarantee there’ll be more.

So I want to get the series arc set up, but concluded satisfactorily in the first three books, so that if worst comes to worst, my fans won’t be disappointed.  

That’s fine.  I already know what’s going to happen in book three, and how it’ll end, and it’ll be a very satisfying ending indeed, but there’ll be enough set up that I could—and hopefully will—continue with more.  How many more, I’ve no freaking clue.  I’ve never planned a project on this scale before.  Not seriously.  I write lots of first books, but they never go anywhere.  

Kassidy, though.  Kassidy’s story and her world will carry me far, I think.

Okay, so my panster instinct is to just go with it, right?  I know where I’m going to be ending that third book, and that’s all that matters for me to write the journey to get there.  But I’ve been doing that with my YA trilogy, and while it’s been working, I feel like book two is just one of those blah bridge books.  Hence the reason I’ve never been able to work myself up to finish the stupid thing.

I do not want that to happen to Kassidy.

My outliner friend is going to laugh herself sick if she reads this, and take great enjoyment in pointing at me and saying “I told you so!”

Dear readers, I, the panster extraordinaire, am going to try outlining the next two books.


Chances are good that something surprising and unexpected will happen and I’ll end up throwing the whole outline out the window, but I’m going to try.  I have my end, so I’m going to work backward from that, focusing mostly on the beginning, middle, and end of the two books needed to complete the trilogy.  That’ll give me plenty of wiggle room, but also give me a firm guide to keep me on course so I don’t get distracted by shiny subplots.

We’ll see how well this works.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Always a Sad Day

I’m obsessed with white boards.  Those that follow my twitter stream and/or facebook feed have seen me rant and rave about white boards.  I recently bought a new one, so have more space for plotting, and when that wasn’t enough, I resorted to using my office window, making good use of the wet erase markers I bought.  The Kassidy book—and that feeding into the series, and it’s definitely going to be a series—took up a ton of space.

Yesterday I finished the first draft.  Today is the sad day when I need to start clearing whiteboards for the next project.  

A sad day indeed.

That’s not to say I’m going to lose the information and ideas I figured out while writing on the white boards and the window.  I’m going to carefully transpose them into a notebook, where they will be kept nice and safe until I pull out the Kassidy book for revisions in another couple months…or a year.  It depends.  

But it’s sad to see those thought processes condensed down onto paper and neatly organized.  My thought process is not organized, and the whiteboards reflect that.  

A picture would preserve that, and I will be taking pictures of the whiteboards, just in case something should happen to the note book.  

The fact remains.  Today, those thoughts and ideas are going to be wiped away, clearing space for the next project, the next idea.  It’s sad to see it go, especially when I had so much fun with Kassidy and her world, but it’s exciting to see what’ll come from the next project.  What sort of ideas will sprout from a thought written on a white board, and spread across the entire office as I track things as they come together and coalesce into something more, something better than the original thought that started the whole writing process.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Difference in Character

Recently I’ve started working on a new urban fantasy, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.  I’m enjoying the story, the convoluted plot that I haven’t quite worked out yet, but most of all the characters.  As I write along, I keep thinking about what Jacky—my most worked with character—would do in a given situation, then sit back and watch as Kassidy—my newest UF heroine—goes and does something completely different.  

It shouldn’t surprise me the way it does.  Kassidy and Jacky come from two very different worlds, and have two extremely different backgrounds.  Jacky grew up in a small family, being taught and coached and supported as she learned about herself.  She’s always had someone she could turn to for help when things went wrong, even if it was just venting to her mom.  Kassidy grew up alone, in the wild 1860’s, in the west.  She spent most of her time alone, learning to depend on herself, with a few people making strong impressions that shaped her into the woman is she today.

The scene that really caught my attention was after a fight, where Kassidy had been hurt, but not horribly injured, and she and a new companion—she’s not sure what to make of him yet—are sitting against a wall in a triage area chatting.  Jacky would have accepted the companionship and comfort that the companion offered.  Would have found strength in the knowledge that she didn’t have to fight the upcoming battles alone.  

Kassidy, on the other hand, pulls away.  Isolates herself.  She’s used to working alone.  While she’s glad to have someone watching her back while she heals, she’s convinced he’s going to get in her way.  (Again. Because he’s already interfered with her job once.)  

I’ve written plenty of other characters before, in different genres and settings and circumstances, but none of their differences struck me quite at hard as that between Jacky and Kassidy.  Maybe it has something to do with Jacky once being my favorite character to write with ever, but that I’ve fallen out of love with her and her world.  Kassidy is bright and new and it could be her differences that make her so appealing to me at the moment.

Kind of an interesting thought.  I’m anxious to see if this new relationship with Kassidy will bud into something that will span years, or if the attraction will wear off once she’s no longer shiny and new.

I guess only time will tell, right?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Unexpected Question

I actually meant to publish this Tuesday, but my older brother got hitched.  I'm still kind of boggled, if truth be told.  It was a very secretive, shotgun wedding, but I think they'll be happy together, and that's what matters.


New Year Day was my family party.  Word had gotten out that I’d self-published a novella under a pseudonym.  I’d expected to get asked a lot of questions about it, which I did, but there was one that took me kind of by surprise.

“Why didn't you publish it under your real name?”

Err…I’ll admit to being a little gobsmacked.  I mean, I’d published a regency romance, and most romance writers publish under a pen name.  It seemed so natural, so reasonable, that it took me a second to gather my scattered thoughts.  Cause I really did have a reason for publishing under a pseudonym.

I still want to publish my urban fantasies.  More, I want to publish them through a more traditional means (agent -> editor -> pub house -> bookstore) and I’d like to do that under my real name.  Although maybe not.  I still can’t imagine seeing Jennifer Milligan emblazoned on a cover with a kick ass heroine with titles like Lightning Strike or Blood and Dust.  Still, I’d like that option available.

And it’s not that I’m ashamed of self-pubbing.  I’m not.  I’m actually quite pleased with myself.  I’ve made no secret about being Diana Connell.  The other big consideration is separation of genre.  

There are a lot of authors out there who writer in multiple genres.  Some of them do it all under one name.  Mostly those that have well established, well known names.  Some write in genres that are similar enough to be shelved next to each other.  Others write in genres so different that in order to avoid the possibility to disappointing reader expectations, they writer under a pen name.

Hell, I know a couple authors that write in the same genre under two or three different pen names.

There’s a lot of reasons for publishing under a pseudonym, and my family accepted my reasons.  This whole publishing is a bit of a mystery to them, but that’s all right.  They support me, encourage me, and are glad to listen to me attempt to explain the complexities of seeking publication without really understanding any of it.

Because, you know, that’s what families are for.