Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Writer Wednesday: How to Create Your Own Writing Retreat

When I say "writing retreat" do you think of this?


Or maybe this?


For me, "retreat" means free of distraction. Time devoted to the thing I'm "retreating" for. Whether it's for a few days or a few weeks, when I say I'm going to a writing retreat, I mean that I'm going to spend time doing essentially one thing only from morning to night (and sometimes well into the night): Write.

A writing retreat can be a great way to get yourself back into writing if you've had a long break. It's also perfect for when you're nearly done with a project and need to do a last final push to get to the end. 

Writing retreats can happen with a small group of writers (friends or strangers) or they can be solo affairs. They can be high-end posh affairs that ensconce the writer in luxury, or they can be bare bones and simple where the focus is on writing.

If you have the funds, you can travel to a cool location for a hosted writing retreat in the company of other writers. I've done this before, and it was great fun. But there are two problems with this kind of retreat. First, it can cost quite a bit. From a few hundred to several thousand. Second, I have found that often the programming takes up a lot of time which means that there's little time for what you probably came for: Writing!

But you don't have to travel to an exotic location or spend thousands to have a writing retreat experience. You can create a writing retreat for yourself or your small group. Here a few tips to ensure a great experience:

1.  Retreat! You can schedule a few nights in a hotel in town or maybe the next city over. Or you can send your family away for the weekend and take over the house. Staying in your home environment doesn't feel "retreat" enough? How about a short car trip? I've done all three of these, and any of them will work. The main thing is to find a way to give yourself time without distraction. No kids, spouse, significant other, housemate or responsibility for taking care of other people. This is probably the most important thing. You don't want to have to worry about whether other people are being taken care of. Use the resources at your disposal (spouse, parents, sister/brother, friends, etc.) to take care of others you usually have primary or co-responsibility for. Schedule yourself at least 48 hours of time when you are only responsible for you. Makes your lists and obsess about the details ahead if you must. But once you've shuttled all responsibility to the others, let it go. You're on writing retreat now!

2. Plan Ahead: Book your hotel in advance. Find others to help take care of the kids (and dogs, etc.). Schedule time off of work. And if you're retreating at home, consider a meal subscription service or cook and freeze meals ahead for yourself. For me, cooking is relaxing and enjoyable, so I pamper myself with Plated or Blue Apron and take a break from writing, pour a glass of wine and cook myself a tasty, gourmet meal. If you hate to cook, order takeout or go to a local restaurant (that way you don't have to clean up!). 

3. Unplug: Are you easily distracted by cat videos and toddler memes? Do you get on Twitter and two hours later find yourself still engrossed in tweet after tweet? Or maybe you find it impossible not to open email when you see a notification pop up. Regardless of your general level of distraction, UNPLUG! This is not negotiable. Let everyone know that you'll be away for a few days. Your readers, fans, and family will be supportive. After all, they want to read your next book (or story or poem). So close your email, turn off the ringer, put your phone in "Do Not Disturb", leave the television off. Play music that feeds your soul and allow that to be the only soundtrack to your writing weekend.

4. Have Your Tools Ready: Make sure you have the tools you need to write as much as you want and can. If you write with a pen on paper, ensure that you have plenty of both. And this is no time to skimp. Get the good paper (I love Moleskine notebooks - smooth paper without drag). Get out the good pen that feels great in your hand and make sure you have plenty of ink refills. If you write on a computer, ensure that you have batteries for your mouse and a comfortable keyboard.

5. Pamper: Next to creating a space free of distraction, the next most important part of a retreat is to feel pampered. Make it special for yourself. Get a nice bottle of wine (not the "2 Buck Chuck" from the bottom shelf). Tea or coffee drinker? Stock up on your favorite. If baths are a luxurious ritual you rarely have time for, make sure you have the supplies for a soothing bath during your retreat. Schedule a massage for a break and to ease the tension in your tight shoulders. Buy some good quality dark chocolate or another treat that feels special to you. Get out the candles and create an ambience to support your muse. Think ahead of time about what feels luxurious - special - to you then create that in your space.

Unplug, retreat and pamper. Give yourself the opportunity to freely follow the creative urge and see what happens.  Cheers!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

New Amazon Preview - A Good Thing

Did June happen? One minute I was sipping champagne at the Eiffel Tower, the next I was meeting readers at Denver Comic Con and now here we are, knocking on the door of July! Did you ever have a month that you feel like the entire thing happened in a few days?

Here are some of my June stats:

Number of Countries I was in:   4
Number of Miles Traveled:   over 8,100
Number of glasses of champagne imbibed:  Too Many to Count
Number of Words Written: 0

That last number may have something to do with the 8100 miles and many glasses of bubbly!

But the good news on the writing front is that I've got a writing retreat set up for myself in July. It will be 10 days free of family responsibility and distraction. Ten days of literary abandon as I explore the tangled web of intrigue that H.A.L.F. has become. Hmm...

In other news, Amazon has created a new way to preview a book that I think is quite awesome (and probably a bit overdue). Now I can embed this preview right on my website so people who are interested can read a sample of the book wherever they see it. Cool. Try it out :-)




Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Choose the Title for my Next Book!

POLL TIME!

Book two of the H.A.L.F. series, The Makers, released just over a month ago. I can't believe it has already been a month! The book is getting good press and reviews - yay! You can see more about The Makers here.

But I'm on a writing roll so there's no sitting back and procrastinating the next story with hours of XBox. I've got most of book 3 outlined, character and world creation is under way and I'll soon begin writing in earnest.

And that means I need a working title. Here are three I'm kicking around.

But I NEED YOUR HELP! Which of these three stand out to you?

It's not important that you know what it means or what the book's about. At this stage I'm interested in whether any of these sound appealing to you? Do they make you curious?

If you don't like any of them, feel free to hit the "Other" button then tell me  your own title.


Thanks for helping me title my next book!



What should be the title of the third book in the H.A.L.F. series? (Book 1 - The Deep Beneath; Book 2 - The Makers)

The Deorum
The Progenitors
The Veterum
Other
Please Specify:
Do Riddles

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Of Love Quadrangles and Paris

I can't believe it has already been a week since my new book, H.A.L.F.: The Makers launched! It has been one heck of a ride. The Makers had an awesome debut and the first book in the series, H.A.L.F.: The Deep Beneath, continues to climb up the charts on Amazon. *Happy Dance!*


I did the launch a bit differently this time than I have for past books and I promise to share what I've learned in future posts. Right now I'm busy getting ready to travel to Europe on vacation. I'm so excited!! This will be my first time to Paris and Germany. I'm looking forward to time alone with my guy and some relaxation.

Before I go, here's a little post about writing the relationships in The Makers. And, an excerpt!!

Enjoy :-)

Natalie

When I began planning the H.A.L.F. (Human Alien Life Form) series back in 2010, I created a female protagonist, Erika Holt, and two guys (H.A.L.F. 9, aka “Tex” and Jack Wilson). During the process of writing The Deep Beneath (H.A.L.F. #1), I assumed that I’d have a love triangle going throughout the three-book series.

But oh, how characters can foil plans! I had no idea that The Deep Beneath would end the way that it did. It’s pretty hard to write a triangle when one of the people in the triad flies away in an alien space ship!

Reboot. Book 2, The Makers.

How I see Jack Wilson
As I planned The Makers, a new character developed. Her name is Anna Sturgis, and she’s the niece of Commander Lillian Sturgis, the antagonist in book 1. In The Makers, Jack gets thrust into a situation where he has to be with Anna 24/7.
Given that Anna is the niece of his enemy, Jack wants to hate her. But it’s hard to hate someone when you’re falling in love with them.

Anna Sophia Robb as Anna Sturgis
A challenge for me with this situation is that there are fans of the first book who are rooting for Erika and Jack to end up together. I didn’t want to piss off The “Team Jerika” folks and have people hate Jack for moving on quickly to another relationship. At the same time, I had to stay true to where the story was taking me. 

It turned out that the unexpected relationship between Jack and Anna was my favorite part of The Makers to write. Their relationship builds slowly through time and circumstances. Their flirtations are awkward as flirtations often are. And I think readers will sense Jack’s sincere emotional turmoil as he is torn between his love for a woman he will likely never see again versus his natural attraction to a beautiful and kind woman he spends all day with.

At the end of The Makers, readers will be left wondering what will happen to this quadrangle. Will Jack and Anna end up together despite the odds against them? Will Erika ever come back to Earth? And if she does, will she still love Jack or will she fall or the human-alien hybrid, H.A.L.F. 9?

Excerpt from H.A.L.F.: The Makers (H.A.L.F. #2):


When he woke, the sun was just north of the horizon. The sky was deep coral and lavender with bursts of gold spinning away from a few low, wispy clouds.
He felt bad for snapping at Anna. It wasn’t her fault that his girlfriend had flown away from him in a spaceship or that he couldn’t go home if he wanted to stay out of jail and off Sewell’s shit list.
“Look, I’m sorry I snapped at you. I’m having a bad day, okay?”
Anna nodded and walked toward the restaurant. Her long hair bounced about her shoulders and her hips swayed gently as she walked. The setting sun shone on her hair and made it look like it was somehow lit from within. Jack wondered what it would feel like to run his hands through it.
The parking lot was long and wide, and Anna had parked near the back. There was a huge neon cowboy hovering over the restaurant by a sign that said ‘The Big Texan.’ Another sign announced it was home to the ‘72-Ounce Steak’. Of all the unlikely things Jack had done with Anna Sturgis so far, this was by far the most surreal. It seemed like the last place Miss Spinach Salad would choose to eat. Jack looked toward the horizon in every direction as he walked and realized she likely didn’t have much choice. There was nothing but open range in every direction.
They checked in at the hostess stand set below walls filled from eye level to ceiling with stuffed heads of dead animals. Erika wouldn’t have set another foot further in the place no matter how hungry she was. The thought of her made Jack’s hurt redouble.
The huge menu nearly covered Anna completely as she read it. Jack thought for sure she’d order water with lemon and a salad. But she surprised him and ordered a Shock Top and beef filet.
“I’ll have the same,” Jack said.
The waiter carded him and grudgingly accepted the fact that ‘Steve Harper’ was indeed twenty-two years old that day and of legal age to drink the beer he’d just ordered.
Anna maintained her aloof mask. Jack wished he could reel his angry outburst back in. He hated conflict.
When the beers came, Anna began to take a sip but stopped. She held her glass up. “A toast,” she said.
Jack halted himself from taking the sip he was ready to take. He raised his glass as well.
“To you, Jack Wilson. Happy birthday.”
They clinked their glasses and each took a long draw of the bubbly liquid. It went down smooth and warmed Jack’s insides.
After they sucked down half their beer and made the bread into a pile of crumbs, the mood had lightened considerably. They made small talk about inconsequential things and got into a raging debate about which franchise was better: Star Trek or Star Wars. Jack argued on behalf of Star Wars while Anna made a passionate argument for Star Trek. The truth was, Jack didn’t care. He was just happy to learn that his driving companion liked either. Most girls he’d met wouldn’t have known the difference between the two. Heck, even Erika rolled her eyes if he mentioned Star Wars.
They stuffed themselves with French fries and steak cooked rare. The waiter cleared the dishes, and Jack was getting ready to hit the head when a horde of servers came toward them, singing happy birthday and carrying a piece of chocolate cake with a lit sparkler coming out of the top. Jack had thus far lived his life without having to succumb to the embarrassment of a whole restaurant staring at him while having people sing happy birthday to him off key. The two beers he’d downed made him chill with it.
The sparkler reflected in Anna’s twinkling eyes as she sang along with them. She smiled, and the fire cast a soft glow on her pink skin. Maybe it was the beers talking, but Jack had the urge to kiss her. It was like for a brief moment, he was living someone else’s life. If someone was looking at them, they might think the two were boyfriend and girlfriend out for a special meal to celebrate his day. Kissing her would look natural. Be natural.
If she was his girlfriend. If his girlfriend wasn’t a billion miles away.
Jack forced the thoughts of Erika down and put a smile on. The sparkler died down and the magic of its fire was gone. Anna was a business companion forced on him by the situation, and he was no more than that to her. She was making the best of it. He should too.
He dug into the gooey cake and shoved the plate toward Anna so she could eat some as well. She ate a bite. A smile crept across her face as the sugar dissolved in her mouth.
“If we keep this up, I’m going to be as big as a house by the time this is over.” She took another huge bite.
Jack answered by digging his fork into the chocolate fluff icing. It wasn’t the eighteenth birthday he’d imagined or how he’d hoped to usher in adulthood. But he figured he’d always remember it, drinking beer and eating cake with one of the wealthiest and most beautiful women in the world.
They got into the car and Anna undid the top button on her jeans. Jack laughed and did the same.
They found a cash-only hotel. Jack was both relieved and disappointed when Anna requested a room with two beds. They wormed their way into sleeping bags so they didn’t have to take their chances with getting bedbugs. As Jack drifted off to sleep that night of his eighteenth birthday, he decided that life was better when he kept himself in the here and now without thoughts about his past or his future. Without thoughts about Erika and what might have been.
In the here and now, he had spent a very pleasant evening with a woman that, as it turned out, was an amiable companion. He was now Steve Harper. Jack Wilson’s past was full of might-have-beens. His future held the prospect of going up against Croft’s men to liberate Alecto, who was just as likely to kill him as help him. With his belly full of good food and drink, and Anna lightly snoring next to him, Steve Harper contentedly slept away the last few hours of Jack Wilson’s eighteenth birthday.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

H.A.L.F.: The Makers Book Trailer

H.A.L.F.: The Makers launched May 10 and wow! It's like overnight people have found this series!
 
There are multiple aspects to The Makers. Readers will follow new adventures of characters they loved (and hated!) from book 1, The Deep Beneath. But there are also lots of new characters - and worlds - to discover.
 
In this trailer, I focus your attention on the aliens of The Makers. Think you know all there is to know about those bulbous-headed, little grey aliens?
 
Think again!
 
And alien abductions may be the least of our worries ...



 
Did you enjoy the trailer? Does it make you curious? You can learn more about The Makers on its dedicated web page here. And you can purchase the book in the format of your choice here.