Hellhound release date

You may have seen around the Web that Hellhound is coming out next Tuesday, July 30. I’m sorry to say that’s not the case. Hellhound was originally scheduled for publication on that date, but due to my husband’s illness I missed some deadlines and the release date got pushed back.

So when will Hellhound hit the shelves? October 29. I’m sorry (very sorry) for the wait, but you have to admit a new Deadtown novel makes great Halloween reading!

Where I’ve been

To anyone who hasn’t given up on this blog, it probably seems like I’ve dropped off the face of the earth. And right now, that’s close to what it feels like. I spend my days in a windowless room in an intensive care unit, by my husband’s bedside. He’s been in the hospital for nearly two months and in the ICU for over three weeks.

My husband suffers multiple complications from diabetes. He’s already lost most of his eyesight. He’s been in and out of hospitals since September. Last winter, an infected wound in his foot sent him to the emergency room and a hospital stay that stretched to three weeks. We were told he’d need to have his leg amputated below the knee. Devastating news, especially when diabetes had already taken so much. He came home for a month on IV antibiotics while we got second opinions and considered his options. During this time, I became his round-the-clock nurse. I was happy to take care of him but often feared I was in over my head. I don’t have any medical training, and suddenly (other than a weekly visit from a real nurse) I was the one responsible for holding him steady.

For a while, we thought that he’d be able to have a less drastic surgery, but for various reasons that didn’t work out. He opted for the amputation. That surgery went well, but he developed pneumonia and, on the day we were supposed to start talking about his discharge, he went into sudden cardiac arrest.

We were lucky. I was in his room and realized he was in distress. I got a nurse, who called in a crisis team. They were with him when his heart stopped, so he got immediate CPR until the doctor was able to get his heart beating on its own again. They moved him to the ICU, and for more than a week we waited to see if he’d regain consciousness. Day after day, things looked grim. He had another close call. Staff gently warned me that each day that slipped away took another sliver of hope with it. Counselors appeared to talk to me about the possibility that he wouldn’t wake up. Someone even asked me about organ donation. My husband had signed a living will; I knew what his wishes were. Still, I kept asking them to wait one more day, do one more test…

On the twelfth day after the cardiac arrest, I was with him alone in his room. Standing by his bed and holding his hand, tears running down my face, I asked him one last time to open his eyes. I didn’t expect anything, but he did–wide. He relaxed a little, and I asked again. He opened them again. I asked him to close them and he scrunched them shut. By this time I was yelling to anyone who’d listen, “He’s waking up! He’s waking up!” I don’t even know how to describe the abrupt switch from profound despair to absolute joy that I felt just by seeing him open his eyes. Since then, he’s continued to wake up–slowly, but we have hope. He’s got a long road ahead and I’m not even sure where it leads, but I’ll be walking it with him.

During these weeks and months of crisis, I missed some work deadlines, which means that HELLHOUND’s release had to be pushed back to the fall. I regret that, but I couldn’t help it. No matter how much I love Deadtown’s world, it’s hard to focus on made-up characters in your head when someone you love is in crisis. Now that my husband is more stable, I’m working on Deadtown 6, which will be the final book in the series. I’m excited to bring together the plot lines and character arcs in a grand finale! It feels good to get back to work.

Thanks for your patience. I expect to be around more in the coming weeks, and I look forward to getting back in touch with online friends and readers.

Ring Out the Old, Ring in the New

I’ll admit that 2012 was not a good year in my household, so I’m looking forward to what 2013 may bring. The turning over of the calendar from one year to the next is a pretty arbitrary thing; tomorrow morning will dawn much like this morning did. Still, it’s a good time to pause and spend some time to reflect. What have I made it through? Where am I now? Where would I like to be?

When it comes to resolutions, I tend to be the kind of person who makes several, follows through for about two weeks, and then sinks back into my usual patterns. It can be discouraging. So this year, I decided that instead of making a resolution, I’d choose something I wanted to learn–and then take a class. This appealed to me for a couple of reasons. My husband’s ill health keeps me home most of the time, and a class would get me out of the house. Also, there’s much greater motivation to follow through on something that you’ve paid for. Finally, it’s been a long time since I went out of my way to learn something in the context of a group of people, and doing so seemed like fun.

So I started thinking. Initially, I came up with three main ideas:

  • A physical activity. Most of my exercise these days comes in the form of taking walks. So I was thinking that something like yoga or Pilates (a new studio just opened a couple of blocks from my house) might be a good addition. My daughter does Crossfit and loves it, but I don’t think I’m ready for that. 🙂
  • A musical instrument. I took piano lessons as a child, abandoned them, started playing on my own when I was in high school, and then stopped again in college. We don’t have a piano, but I do have an electronic keyboard. I wondered how quickly I could learn to play again.
  • A language. I love studying languages. I used to have decent intermediate-level French, and I have a friend who takes French conversation classes. I’d also like to learn German (which my husband speaks) or Italian (largely due to my opera obsession). And ever since starting Deadtown I’ve wanted to learn Welsh, although I think I might have a tough time finding a Welsh class in central NY.

Those were my first three thoughts. All of them are appealing to me. But in the end I signed up for something completely different: a writing workshop. I saw one advertised in my local weekly. It’s called Writing Through the Rough Spots, and it seemed like it might be a good way to process some of the changes and challenges that have been happening in my life. One of my goals for 2013 is to expand my writing repertoire. Of course, I’ll be writing Deadtown 6 and (hopefully) a sequel to my mystery, Peace, Love, and Murder. (People have been asking for that long enough!) But I have other stories to tell and other voices to let speak. A workshop seemed like a good way to open up to those stories and voices. I’m not taking it for therapy (although writing can be therapeutic). I’m not taking it with the intent to write something publishable (although who knows what stories might emerge). I’m taking it to flex my writing muscles and explore new possibilities in my writing. And I’ve committed ten weeks to doing that. It’s the best resolution I can think of.

Happy New Year to you! Whether you make resolutions, set goals, or simply go with the flow, I hope you have a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2013!

The Next Big Thing in Deadtown

I was recently tagged by Sean Cummings to participate in The Next Big Thing, where authors answer ten questions about their current works in progress. If you haven’t read Sean’s post about what he’s working on now, jump over to his blog to take a look. It sounds awesome–how could you resist an apocalyptic young adult tale featuring zombies?

In turn, I tagged three excellent writer friends. K.A. Laity has already posted about her weird noir project. (And she’s such an amazing writer she’s been tagged three times now to share her “next big thing.”) I’ve also tagged Keith Pyeatt, award-winning author of “horror with heart,” and J.R. Turner, whose urban fantasy Redemption I called “a heady mix of action, thrills, and sizzling romance.” Watch for their posts on November 21.

So thanks, Sean, for asking me what I’m up to with my writing. Here’s what I had to say:

What is the working title of your book?

Hellhound. It’s the fifth book in my Deadtown urban fantasy series featuring demonslaying shapeshifter Victory Vaughn.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Because I’m writing a series, everything that’s in this book comes from two things: Vicky’s story as it’s unfolded so far and the overall plot arc that will finish with book six.

What genre does your book fall under?

Urban fantasy. I try to write the kind of urban fantasy I most enjoy reading, with tons of action, some humor, and a touch of romance. There’s also some darkness as Vicky struggles with her own fears as she races to save others.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

This question always gives me trouble, because the characters are like real people to me, and I’ve never been able to match them up neatly with actors. Keira Knightley or Emma Watson (in a few years) could probably play Vicky—but that’s mostly because they both look good with hair that’s short, like hers. I think of Vicky’s werewolf boyfriend Kane as looking sorta like a decades-younger Richard Gere, but keeping the silver hair Gere has now. And my mental image of Pryce, Vicky’s nemesis and demi-demon cousin, looks a little like Cillian Murphy. See? I’m really bad at answering this question.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

When some of Boston’s zombies turn murderous, Vicky must find out what’s causing the killing spree, while trying to prevent a demon war and outrun the pack of hellhounds on her trail.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I have an agent. The publisher for this series is Ace. Some time next year, I hope to self-publish a collection of Deadtown-related short stories, including a novella-length prequel set during the zombie plague that created Deadtown.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Probably about three months, if you don’t include some breaks related to pressures of the day job (which is also writing, but mostly related to technical and educational topics).

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I don’t like to make direct comparisons because it feels presumptuous. So I’ll say that if you like to read fantasy series set in a modern urban environment that show characters with special powers trying to save the world while dealing with the problems of everyday life, you’ll probably enjoy my books.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’d been reading a lot of urban fantasy and thought it was a fun genre that I’d like to try writing. Several things came together to launch Deadtown, the first book in the series—a blog comment that no one besides you can “wrestle with your own personal demons,” my background in medieval literature with a long-standing interest in Welsh mythology, a joke that zombies improve any book (and that was before Pride and Prejudice and Zombies came out), and a desire to use Boston as a setting. And so Vicky Vaughn—a descendent of the Welsh goddess Ceridwen who lives in Boston’s paranormal-only district and kills other people’s personal demons for a living—was born.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Hellhound features a book that doesn’t want to be read, a teenage zombie fashion entrepreneur, and a wisecracking guilt demon that may or may not have an actual conscience. Not to mention a pack of actual hellhounds.

My Halloween horoscope

I’m one of those people who glances at her horoscope each morning and then promptly forgets what it said. It’s a fun way to start the day, but for every prediction that seems uncannily accurate, there are hundreds that had nothing whatsoever to do with the way my day unfolded.

Today, though, the horoscope that landed in my Inbox was too good not to share, especially on the eve of NaNoWriMo. Here it is, as sent by Astrocenter.com:

You need to start giving yourself more credit, NANCY. You have tremendous talents, many of them untapped. If you would just begin to harness the talent and power that is already within you, then you would begin to see a dramatic arc to your career path. Something is holding you back. Could it be fear of failure or, more likely, fear of success? You need to spend some time meditating about what you really want out of life. Once your heart’s desire is clear, it will be that much easier to claim it.

This feels less like a prediction than good, solid advice for anyone who creates. You don’t have to be named Nancy, be a Pisces, or write books. Whatever your dreams and goals, decide what you want–and then go for it! It’s the only way to succeed.

Happy Halloween! And good luck to all the NaNoWriMo writers who are revving up their creative engines!

On backsliding and brick walls

A month ago (good Lord, a month?!), I was posting about how I was finding strategies to focus–to single-task and increase my daily word count. It was going great. I was averaging about 3,000 words a day instead of my usual thousand. I was looking forward to my writing sessions each day. My novel took on terrific momentum and almost seemed to be writing itself. Writing was fun, and I felt happy and satisfied at the end of the day.

Then, my momentum slowed down. Not to a crawl–I was still surpassing the thousand words a day that I’d always striven for in the past. But suddenly writing 1,700 or 1,800 words in a day felt like failure. That was silly, and I knew it. Still, I’d raised the bar and I was no longer clearing it. It got harder to start each day.

Sometimes, a slowdown in momentum comes from taking a wrong turn in the plot. It’s like my characters let me know that I’m trying to make them act in ways that they simply wouldn’t. When that happens, it helps to take a step back from the writing, stop orchestrating the story from above (like God or a marionettist), and get down on the ground with the characters. In other words, to forget what I want to have happen now or plan to have happen next and see the story through the eyes of those living it.

So I did that. I let go of any and all word count goals for a couple of days, let the story sit, and then reread the last several scenes, tinkering with those a bit but not making any big changes. During this time, of course, I was conscious of not getting any new writing done. And I’ll admit I let myself slide back into some bad habits, especially going online first thing in the day. But I tried to set such concerns aside for the moment. I know I focus better when I single-task, and that knowledge gives me the power to regain my concentration. Plus I have time before this manuscript is due, and I wanted to focus on the story–not on progress charts or days until deadline or any of that.

Reading over my work, everything seemed solid. I decided to try the strategy of jumping ahead to the next big scene and then going back to connect the dots later. That often works for me. And it seemed like the best way to get back to writing 3,000 words a day was to stop obsessing about how many words I was writing. To just get on with telling the story. After all, daily progress is what builds momentum.

That’s when I hit the brick wall. An acute medical problem sent my husband to the emergency room, and he was admitted to the hospital for the better part of a week. He has multiple medical issues that have gradually stolen his health, and this one has left him weak and exhausted. He’s home now, but he’s still very sick and I’ve become his caregiver. Gladly and with love. I will do whatever I can to take care of him, make him comfortable, and help him recover. And I’m grateful to be able to do that at home, sparing him an extended hospital stay.

I haven’t written in two weeks, since the health crisis started. I took my laptop to the hospital so I could write as he rested, but a combination of worry and the unfamiliar setting kept me from getting much done. Since he’s been home, I’ve spent hours on the Internet looking up his symptoms so I can have an informed conversation with this doctor. And I’m on call 24 hours a day when he needs help.

That’s as it should be right now. It’s important that I understand what’s going on with his health, and it’s important that I take care of him. And to be honest, I’d give up writing entirely if doing so would restore his health to 100%. But the gods aren’t offering me that bargain.

So I need to figure out how to start writing again. I suspect the answer is, “Just do it.” I’m working on the how. I never thought of myself as a creature of routine until my routine was interrupted and my days exploded into a thousand tiny fragments. I used to get up first and have about two hours of writing time in the morning. I can’t count on that now. But two hours–or an hour at the very least–always seemed like how much time I needed to write. I don’t have that luxury right now. I don’t know when I can sit down to write or how much time I’ll have to do it. So I have to learn how to make progress when all have have is 10 or 15 minutes. I have to turn on my laptop at the start of the day and pick it up when I can. I have to be able to jump into a scene without a lot of warm-up.

It seems to me I have two kinds of fear to get past: fear for my husband’s health and fear of losing my writing. The only way to get past these fears is to face them, moment by moment and day by day. To stop worrying about the future, about what might happen, and to do what I can right now, in this moment. I’ll let you know how I do.

Night Owl Reviews makes Darklands a top pick!

I’m a little late discovering this one, but there’s a great review for Darklands at Night Owl Reviews. The verdict: “Overall, another great installment to a very addictive urban fantasy series!”

Thanks to the reviewers at Night Owl Reviews for reading my series!


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