Today’s Featured Author – Victoria Zak

Today I welcome Victoria Zak to my blog. Her novella, Scorched Hearts, is one of 13 stories in the Stroking the Flames anthology.  

Interview

What or who inspired you to start writing?

I started reading J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood and was hooked. I wanted to write my own stories. I wrote my first book in 2014 which was Highland Burn and it started my Guardians of Scotland series.

How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?

Great question. I think there’s quite a bit of myself in my books. Sometimes intentional, sometimes not. At times ideas surface and I have no idea where it came from, but it was there inside waiting to come out. My characters set the tone for personality. (Yes, I hear voices.) lol There’s a lot of my humor in my books. I’ll be reading through my current WIP and just start busting out laughing.

What is the best and worst advice you ever received? (regarding writing or publishing)

Best advice I have ever received was when a good friend of mine, who happens to be an author, told me to write the damn book. So, I did. Two and half years and ten books later, I’m still writing those damn books. lol

What is the best thing about being a writer?

The best part of being a writer is I get to share my stories with wonderful readers. I truly enjoy it when I hear back from a reader telling me how much they liked my books. It keeps me motivated.

The worst? Hmmm, I must say I loathe edits. Lots of pounding my head against my desk.

What fuels you as an author to continue to write?

By far the readers. I have a lovely reader group and they keep me motivated and the characters in my head need their stories told. I get excited when one throws me a curveball.

How do you conceive your plot ideas?

I’ll come up with one or two plot ideas and then start asking a lot of “what if” questions. Then I just start throwing obstacles at the characters to keep them from achieving their goals. Sounds horrible, but so satisfying when they finally get their HEA at the end.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

I outline the main plot, then start writing. I have a good idea where I want the story to go before I start writing.

Please tell us about your current release.

My current release is a Paranormal Romance novella for the Stoking the Flames anthology, Scorched Hearts. My story takes place in a mountain town, Ember Brooke, basally it’s Mayberry for dragons. My hero Thane, a dragon shifter and hang gliding instructor, finally gets a mate. However, the she-dragon he’s mated to has no idea what’s it’s like to be a dragon.

Raised by humans, Bex a supernatural scientist, has found a way to suppress her dragon for the fear of the unknown. Overworked, Bex goes on vacation, the road leading her to Ember Brooke and straight into Thane’s arms. With her career and heart on the line, Thane desperately courts Bex hoping to convince her that he’s her mate.

OMGeee, this book was so much fun to write. It’s humorous, sexy, and a wee bit adventurous.

What inspired you to write this book?

These characters were from the first book I started to write and never finished. I had fallen in love with the Bex and Thane and finally had a chance to tell their story. I’m so happy I did.

How did you come up with the title?

Well, since it’s a dragon shifter book, I wanted the title to have a sexy, dragon feel to it, because this couple heats-up the pages.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

The hero is hang glider instructor so I had to research hang gliding.

Which of your characters is your favorite? 

Thane was my favorite. He’s a true hero. He fights for love. His buddies, Stone and Jensen are hilarious. I can’t wait to write their stories.

Can you tell us a little about the black moment in your book?

I can’t without giving too much away, but it’s a tear jerker.

If this book is part of a series, what is the next book? Any details you can share?

This book is a start in a new series, however it run parallel to my Scottish Historical Paranormal Romance series, Guardians of Scotland. These characters are descendants of past Dragonkine.

If you could be one of the characters from any of your books, who would it be and why?

I’d be Abigale Brue from Highland Burn. She’s the Princess of Scotland and married to the notorious, bloodthirsty dragon shifter James the black Douglas. She has the kindest heart and the most impressive inner strength.

If you could jump in to any book, and live in that world, which would it be?

J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood world. These vampires are just incredible.

Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?

I write in my office most of the time.

Do you have a specific snack that you have with you when you write?

Is coffee a snack?

Do you have an all time favorite book?

Besides J.R. Ward, I loved Suzan Tisdale’s Fredericks Queen. Amazing Scottish Historical story.

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

I’m a two-year breast cancer survivor. I was diagnosed in 2104 right after I published my first book. It hasn’t been an easy road to travel, however I’m grateful to have been able to beat it and continue to write.

Book Blurb

Surrender to the Desire…
Embrace your Destiny…
Soar with the Dragons…
Stoke the flames that 13 of your favorite NY Times, USA Today and International Bestselling authors have ignited with their ALL NEW, NEVER BEFORE PUBLISHED fiery tales of the scorching passion that erupts when a dragon is united with their soul-mate.

Soul Fire by Kelly Abell
Sometimes breaking a curse leads to an unforeseen destiny

Desired Revenge by Solease M. Barner
A throne lost.. Centuries of debt.. A new threat arises that not only jeopardizes her lost kingdom but also her heart. Sometimes vengeance isn’t vengeance once the heart is involved. Will Carmen have her Desired Revenge?

Devon by Kathi S. Barton
Kelly was finally taking the vacation she had been promising herself for years… and escaping her crazy family. But as fate would have it somethings are worse than insane relatives.

On Wings of Time by Linda Boulanger
One man with a dragon’s soul. One woman with the key to unlock his powers. With six hundred years separating them, Fate’s carefully woven web is about to be tested with a kiss and the flip of a coin.

Dragonslayer, Dragon Heart by Isobelle Cate

Heart of a Dragon by L.J. Garland
When an unimaginable evil rains down from the sky, fate demands action from the most unlikely place–a terminally ill woman. But even with a fierce warrior at her side, does a single dragon stand a chance at saving the world?

Promised to A Dragon by Darlene Kuncytes
When you’re promised in marriage to a dragon shifter like a piece of chattel… what will it be – fight or flight?

The Dragon’s Sacrifice by Andi Lawrencovna

Sadie’s Shadow by Julia Mills
Long forgotten secrets, ancient curses and a prophecy she’s been running from for over a century. Fate and Destiny battle for Sadie’s soul but only her Shadow knows the truth…

I Dream of Dragons by Tricia Owens
When a genie in a bottle seduces her inner dragon, a sorceress must decide if the attraction is real or if she is being tricked.

Fire and Ice by Kate Richards
The battle for Crossroads rests in the hands of an ice dragon who has yet to shift and isn’t sure she can. Is his fire enough to set her desire ablaze and free the dragon within?

Curse of the Dragon’s Eye by Kali Willows
When reality is just an ancient curse in disguise, an Egyptian Pharaoh fights for her soul & her flight of dragons

Scorched Hearts by Victoria Zak
One lost heart and another ready for love collides with burning desire. One of them is bound to get SCORCHED.

 

About the Author

Victoria Zak is an internationally bestselling indie published author. She writes Scottish Historical Paranormal Romance and Paranormal Romance. She’s well known for her well-executed stories and thrilling paranormal/highland romance series The Guardians of Scotland.

When she’s not writing in her dragon loving world filled with magic and steamy romance, Victoria lives in the sunshine state with her real-life heroes, her husband and two kids.

You can find out more about Victoria on her website or you can follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

You can purchase Stroking the Flames on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Itunes, and the Kobo Store.

 

Editing your novel with the help of a revision outline

Last week I wrote about the different drafts your story will go through on the way to becoming a novel. During those drafts, you need to strengthen the characters and plot as well as reduce wordiness or strengthen your writing.

To do this, I find it helps to have something to keep me on track and remind me of all the areas that I need to focus on.

I am unsure where I got this revision outline. I believe it was condensed down and adjusted one from an online writing class I took years ago. But when I am done with my second draft, this is usually the outline I pull out to ensure I do a complete job of editing.

Even though the notes say to do only one of these at a time, I typically do several at once working on each chapter separately.

Revision Outline

Do only ONE step at a time. If you find another area that needs work – mark it and then continue with the current fine-tuning project. Work in block sections (defined by chapters). Complete each “block” before going on.

1.)    Structure – develop a clear, compelling plot.

a.)    Look for scenes that are passive/dialogue with no tension.

b.)    Scenes that don’t build or are anti-climactic.

NOTES: Each scene has a beginning, middle and end – there must be a climax/tension spot for each scene – make sure dialogue scenes have tension and are not just “passing time.”

2.)    Texture – Sharpen descriptive passages to make characters, setting, and action more vivid – SHOW, DON’T TELL

a.)    Look for too much/too little description

b.)    Clichés

c.)    Too many adjectives/adverbs

d.)   Information dumps

e.)    Background or setting info in the wrong place

3.)    Dialogue – Elicit character personality through conversation

a.)    Look at taglines (placement, too many, too few, too much extra information)

b.)    No information dump

c.)    Bland or melodramatic lines

NOTES: Read dialogue aloud to make sure it sounds natural/realistic.

4.)    Editing – Tighten pace and continuity

a.)    Look for repetition through implication

b.)    Slow passages

NOTES: Cut, cut, cut! Don’t repeat what the reader already knows or what is implied elsewhere. Be ruthless! Tighten up the copy without fear of shortening the novel.

5.)    Blending – search and destroy any weakness.

a.)    Look for soft spots – unclear character motivations, actions that seem contrived.

b.)    Fix by expanding or adding a scene so the novel flows.

Figuring out how to get my ADHD child to sleep

Lexie has always had a problem falling asleep. I am jealous of those parents who report that their children are in bed and asleep by 7 p.m. Heck, I am even jealous of the ones who get them asleep by 8 p.m.or even 9 p.m.

Lexie, on the other hand, is usually up until 10 p.m. or later even though her bedtime is 9 p.m. My husband originally dismissed it as her taking after him. He has always had trouble falling asleep. But now we know he is right. Her sleep problem is related to her ADHD (which my husband was recently diagnosed with too so it is something she inherited from him.) The problem is that she can’t stop her racing mind long enough to fall asleep.

Actually, the diagnosis of ADHD for both Lexie and my husband explained a lot. And while medication helps both of them in the daytime to focus and be productive, that medicine has run out by bedtime.

Originally, we thought her medication might be keeping her awake, and even her doctor suggested giving it to earlier to make sure it has worn off by bedtime. But even the best extended release medicine is not going to last the 14 to 16 hours of a typical waking day, and I can typically see when her medication is worn off. She becomes hungrier and just a little wild. Since the meds have worn off, she has no way to calm down to go to sleep. (Once asleep, she is out so no worries about that at least.)

While doing some research online, I found several medical sites that said many adult ADHD patients take an additional dose of their medication so that they can quiet their mind enough to sleep. Of course, that sounds odd as ADHD medication is a stimulant which you would think would have the opposite effect and keep them awake rather than going to sleep.

A good night’s sleep is vital to your child’s mood and brain function. Not getting enough sleep can worsen the symptoms of ADHD. With the recommendation of 9 to 11 hours of sleep at night for a nine-year-old,  I definitely want Lexie to get more sleep.

But rather than dose Lexie with more medication, we have decided to try some of the other suggestions for getting her to sleep.

Here are some suggestions gathered from the internet:

  • Use a white-noise machine, ear plugs, or play soothing music to distract from any other night time sounds
  • Cut down screen time before bed (in other words, no TV, computer or iPads for the 30 minutes or an hour before bed)
  • Ensure she gets one hour of exercise a day
  • Sticking to a schedule is very important for someone with ADHD so establish a clear bedtime routine
  • Make the hour before bed calm, low lights
  • If light sensitive, use blackout curtains, turn bed away from door or use a sleep mask
  • Avoid large meals or snacks before bed
  • Try aroma therapy with lavender, chamomile, sandalwood or vanilla.
  • Use a weighted blanket
  • Practice relaxation techniques – focus on breathing or visualize yourself in a calm place
  • Taking melatonin (available OTC) or other prescription medication for sleep

Now, I will admit when I first saw this list of suggestions I didn’t feel confident that they are going to do anything. But I was tired of the nightly battle. We decided to try cutting the before-bed screen time last week. We had them go to their rooms 20 minutes before bedtime and not use any electronics.

OMG! It worked! They were asleep before 10! The next night was the same. Eureka! We have found the cure! Well, it didn’t work on two nights but we were not consistent with the timing of getting them into bed. Lexie still gets up a few times in her procrastinating manner but we have seen a drastic change in how quickly she falls asleep when we stopped the screen time and had them read or draw instead.

Today’s Featured Author – J.P. Willson

Please welcome author J.P. Wilson to my blog. His book, Through the Mind’s Eye: A Journey of Self-discovery, came out last year.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.  

I will never get used to this question, simply put I just never know how to answer. What “bit” does one pick?

Where were you born and where do you call home?

I was born in Burlington, Ontario and I now reside in Vancouver, British Columbia, yet my home is Victoria B. C. for all intents and purposes.

What or who inspired you to start writing?

I have always enjoyed writing from a young age, at eight or nine years I was writing stupid little stories simply for fun.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I still do not consider myself a writer per se. I can write yes, but do I write well? I cannot answer that question only the readers can. I do call myself an author, there is a very fine line for me.

How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?

Easy question, all of me, all, of it as the book is about me, the next book slated for release is all about me. There is a third book in the works that is about another topic yet the premise is how it relates to me. I like me. No seriously, I am a memoir writer first and foremost, the other is creative non-fiction.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

I think I answered part of this question already. The first book being about my initial recovery from alcohol addiction- the second is about living with sobriety and all the ups and downs that go along with that premise.

Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

Unfortunately I do not write full-time, maybe one day. I am a certified Red Seal Chef by trade which keeps me fairly busy yet I always make the time to write. Odd as this may sound the writing is an ongoing part of the never ending recovery process, one that is invaluable to me.

What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?

Best- I think I would have to say the solitude. Worst- I think I would have to the solitude!

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

Typically I will just start writing although there is one book I am working on that has required a fair amount of research-then I just start writing from what I have learned doing this research. Hence the “creative” in the creative non-fiction.

Please tell us about your current release.

Through the Mind’s Eye: A Journey of Self-Discovery is a compilation of my initial recovery process from alcohol addiction, the treatment program and the follow up needed to stay sober.

What inspired you to write this book?

Initially the therapeutic value of daily journalling was all it was, the thought of this being anything else came after many discussions with others, the help I was able to give to them through my own experiences was the final inspiration. I wanted to be able to help others with their own journeys. I had taken counselling courses to this end yet I felt very strongly that the written word was my way of offering that help.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

Having taken the deepest possible look into myself, my soul, my inner-core was all the research needed. This is an incredible task to accomplish with any certainty no what whom you are.

Can you tell us a little about the black moment in your book?

You will have to read the book for that answer, there are many.

What was the most difficult thing/scene to write in this story?

I would have to say chapter nine, in this chapter I get into some serious issues concerning depression, the loss of family etc. For me this was a very hard thing to re-live over and over throughout the editing process. There was a short time after the final edit where I seriously doubted whether I should publish or not. I was about to put myself “out there” for all to see. So vulnerable to the world, was I strong enough within myself to face this was the question.

Did the story turn out the way you planned from the beginning? If not, what change happened that you didn’t expect?

The story has turned so much better than first anticipated, the positivity from the feedback has been absolutely overwhelming for me in so many ways.

Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?

Strictly at my desk, perched over the computer, with my coffee.

Do you have a specific snack that you have with you when you write?

Coffee, just coffee.

What book are you reading right now?

Not Dead Yet by Phil Collins and Memoirs of a Pahktun Immigrant by Teresa Schapansky  – memoirs of course…

If you could meet two authors, who would you pick and why?

Stephen King without a doubt, to me he just seems so real, so down to earth. His life has been on public display for so long I feel as if I know him already, I just think we would “hit it off.” To be honest I cannot think of a second right now, another author has just recently compared my writing to that of James Joyce so let’s go with him…. no?

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

As a hobby I was once on an underwater hockey team. Yes that does say “underwater hockey.”

Book Blurb

51cfyohljalDepression, self-loathing, unemployment, and destroyed relationships: the effects of drug and alcohol addiction run so much deeper than the morning-after hangover. However, awareness alone will not save the struggling addict, as J.P. Willson reveals in his fearless examination of substance dependency; recovery means doing the mental and emotional work to look inside oneself and discover a way to live as a sober, fulfilled individual in an often challenging world.

Through the Mind’s Eye: A Journey of Self-Discovery is a thought-provoking and honest examination of the emotional, psychological, and physical ways someone must enact their own healing. As a former alcoholic, Willson courageously shares his own story of addiction, as well the ups and downs he experienced along the road to recovery. Packed with astonishing insights about our culture’s relationship to alcohol, as well as the lies we tell ourselves in order to keep using, this book will change the way you view addiction. Willson has no qualms about telling the reader how difficult recovery is—and how there is no quick cure-all—but his compassionate, candid reflections help foster the knowledge and will to change.

About the Author

joseph-wilsonJ.P. Willson is a writer and chef living on the western coast of Canada. Growing up as the shy, quiet child in a large middle-class family, he has always been an observer, a thinker, and a wonderer. He has worked as a Red Seal chef for twenty-five years, and is highly skilled in his trade. However, despite his accomplishments, his life has not been easy. J.P. struggled with alcoholism for nearly thirty years, which resulted in homelessness, unemployment, loneliness, and spiraling depression. Having done the soul-searching and continuing work required for recovery, J.P. decided to share his experience and knowledge to help others along their own journeys. Through the Mind’s Eye: A Journey of Self-Discovery is his first publication. J.P. is deeply grateful for the love and support of his family, counselors, and friends.

You can purchase Through the Mind’s Eye on Amazon.

 

How many drafts does it take to complete a novel?

You have finally finished your first draft of your story. Now comes the real work. The cutting, the editing, the rewriting, the expanding to make your first work closer into a publishable novel.

So how many drafts does that take?

There is no correct answer. It takes as many as it takes. I tend not to break down each going through of my novel as a “draft.” As I write the first draft, I am already going back and reworking it (see my post on editing and writing at the same time). And the second draft may take just as long as the first because it is multiple reads and re-working of the first draft. (But never a full re-write of the story as some authors say they do on their second draft.)

If pressed, I would say I do three drafts. Here is a general outline of my drafts.

First Draft

The first draft is obviously when you just get your story out. It may be rough or wordy, but you got the basic plot and characters down. Now how well this draft goes depends on many things. If you developed your world and characters or outlined your story, this draft will probably go better than if you just “winged” it.

Some authors consider the first draft a “junk” or “vomit” draft. This is for the people who just type without any planning or editing as they write. They write to get something on the page. I don’t write this way so my first draft never falls in this category. (See above about editing and writing at the same time.)

Second Draft

The second draft is going to involve some re-writing as well as cutting. You expand sections to add description and make your characters come alive. You delete scenes that don’t advance your story – even if they are well-written and your favorite. You make sure the timeline works.  Sometimes you may rework an area once or twice. Maybe you will rewrite it many more times.  (Ernest Hemingway admitted to rewriting the final words A Farewell to Arms, his wartime masterpiece, 39 times before he was satisfied.)

Optionally, you may have more drafts of rewriting depending on how much work your story needs. So this could possibly be drafts two through four…or five or even more.

When done with this draft, you may be ready to send your story to a beta reader. But they will undoubtedly have their opinions which you may feel the need to heed. That will mean more editing and adjusting of your story.

Note: One key to improving your editing is to take a break from the book between drafts. You will return with “fresh” eyes and catch more things that need to be changed.

Third Draft

The third draft is more about polishing. It is perfecting word choices, deleting words, tightening scenes even more and of course proofreading. This can be laborious as I can always find thing that I want to tweak and fix. But your goal is to finish the book, not keep piddling around with the same manuscript.

And finally you end with one final (or we hope final) read-through where you will deem it ready for publishing.

Now this is just a sample of how my work typically goes. Depending on the author, it can take many more drafts based on how much work needs to be done and what you consider a “draft.” Just as there is no “right” way to write a novel, each of us will have a different number of “drafts.” All that matters is that you take the time to polish and perfect your work BEFORE you publish it.