Friday, April 29, 2016

Kirkus Review of Ascendant

"An emotionally robust, intellectually vibrant start to a new YA trilogy."


Taylor’s new YA trilogy begins when a teen investigates her mother’s disappearance while visiting the family’s ancestral home in England.
Sixteen-year-old Charlotte Stevens of Venice Beach, California, has just been caught plagiarizing. She downloaded and turned in a college essay for her Richard II assignment in English class. More embarrassing, her father is the bestselling mystery writer Simon Stevens. When the vice principal meets him, however, she finds him falling-down drunk. Simon acknowledges that he and his daughter haven’t been doing well since his wife, Elizabeth, vanished four years ago. He decides to dry out in a clinic and sends Charlotte to Somerset, England, to stay with Elizabeth’s brother, Nigel. Before meeting her uncle, Charlotte encounters Caleb and Sophie, the teen offspring of Nigel’s housekeeper. They help situate her at the sumptuous Gaersum Aern estate, which has an ouroboros carved above the entrance. She also learns that wealthy scion Hayden Wriothesley, cousin to the royal family, has been tasked with her entertainment. Later, while staying in her mother’s old bedroom, Charlotte discovers a puzzle box and a diary. Inside the box is a pentagram and cryptic note from her mother, and the diary reveals that Elizabeth had been infatuated with Hayden’s father, Emerick, as a girl. Taylor (Tick Tock: Seven Tales of Time, 2016, etc.) unspools a posh, literary mystery. As elements like Shakespeare’s true identity and Francis Bacon’s lofty ideals enter the fray, Charlotte is torn between the bookish Caleb and the magnetic Hayden, whose Aston Martin “felt like an energy chamber, both exciting and sickening.” Taylor’s insight into the teen mind is as pointed as it is hilarious; the youngsters often act as though “being sixteen were a disease they needed to hide.” As journals are explored and graves are uncovered, the central mystery gains traction. Meanwhile, romance takes full flight, and Taylor’s superb characterizations leave readers guessing who’s right for Charlotte (until one of them says, “I will be your first...then I’ll be your only”). Some truly risqué moments gear this volume toward older readers.
An emotionally robust, intellectually vibrant start to a new YA trilogy.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Kindle Free Ascendant: A-Z Challenge


Starting tomorrow, April 19th, the first book in my Ascendant series will be a free Kindle download for 24th hours.

Don't miss out on the opportunity to try my first book free!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Judgment: A-Z Challenge

My themes for this year’s A-Z challenge are writing, the writer’s life, and living in the creative flow.

I wish it weren’t true, but the simple fact is, you will be judged.

Oh yes.

I don’t just mean, “here’s your next painfully professional but standard rejection letter” or the harshest feedback back from your critique group.

I mean that backstabby, nasty, JUDGMENTAL judging.

Yes, there’s that.

I can’t speak about other artistic professions because I’ve never pursued others beyond writing, but in this profession, there seems to be a proliferation of feels about there only being enough room for a few people.

And if you’re taking up reader oxygen, well, then what the hell am I suppose to survive on. Something like—if you are succeeding, then that is detracting from my success…somehow.

This is one small part.

The other appears to be about those strong but yet unactualized desires of the judger. The beliefs and fears they have about their own work. Maybe if they tear you down a few stories then they might feel better about themselves…somehow.

Next week begins my regular blogging with the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and my topic, perfectionism and self-criticism, dovetails with my post here and hopefully helps explain why some feel the need to be judgmental in the first place. So stay tuned for that!

But for now, it’s important to know that when you put yourself out there, people will start to pay attention. And when people pay attention, sometimes they cheer you on. That is awesome.

And sometimes, they throw crap at you instead.

Of course none of this is a big deal once you move past being afraid of crap. But before you wrangle that fear, just remember that all that negative stuff meant to take away, detract, and make you smaller—it doesn’t matter. What they think and say doesn’t matter.

They never have any power over you unless you allow it.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Intentional Writer: A-Z Challenge

My themes for this year’s A-Z challenge are writing, the writer’s life, and living in the creative flow.

There are so many things, people, and circumstances that demand your attentions every day. Most writers don’t have the luxury of simply shutting their entire world down for days at a time, or jetting off to foreign locales to focus solely on their writing.

I hear you.

For most of my writer life, I’ve worked full time, raised young children, and managed a home for four people. There have always been hundreds of distractions, interruptions, must-do-nows pulling me away from writing time.

And still, I am as we speak putting the finishing touches on my fifth novel, Affective Needs, that will be releasing this July.

I could tell you that it has been simply a matter of setting word count goals every day and showing up enough days in a row to complete these projects—because that certainly is part of the truth.

But there are and have been a couple other, less concrete actions as well.

First off, I learned to believe in myself as a writer. I am a writer and therefore I write. This sounds so simple, especially now that I have direct evidence to support this belief in myself. But I remember how difficult this was at first. Even calling myself a writer out loud was hard. Now, when people ask what I do, “I’m a writer,” rolls right on out with a smile.

Secondly, I have and continue to intend aspects of my writing career and the books I will write.

How is this different than the concrete goals I set for myself you may be wondering.

My goals are exact, I know for certain I can obtain them, no-brainer get to work and you’ll get there action items. “I will write 1,000 words today.” “I will finish chapter 10 tomorrow.” “I will email five fellow bloggers about xyz today.” I know exactly how, and that I can, accomplish any of these goals.

My intentions don’t always have such a clear path.

Here is an example:

I have, for years, wanted to be able to transition into leaving my job and writing full time. I wanted to do this, but I had no idea how I could make it happen.

I didn’t, for a long time, even believe this would be possible for me.

Last October, I had a heart to heart conversation with someone who is highly intuitive. She brought this topic to the forefront of my attention by pointing out some pretty sobering beliefs I held about myself. Limitations I believed in.

“Open yourself to the possibility,” she advised.

“I’m scared,” I admitted.

She nodded her head.

So for the next few months, I worked on simply being open to the possibility of writing as a full time career move. Instead of doubt, I allowed myself the freedom to imagine what that would look like. That imagining led to stronger feelings. I suddenly really wanted this, and I let myself want it even though I still didn’t see any real way of making it happen.

I stopped being afraid of becoming a full time writer.

I began to trust that this would somehow work out.

Then things kind of started to work out.

My book sales increased.

I started to receive more invitations to speak and teach about writing.

My blog traffic picked up.

Then one day out of the blue, my husband suggested that I quit my job and focus on my writing.

Two weeks later, I told my boss that I would be leaving at the end of May.

All of these things are still accelerating. Opportunities that I never would have planned on continue to present themselves. I have, and am, intending a writing career for myself. It is vastly different from my concrete goals that I set every day, week, and year in that my intentions are not things that I know exactly how to do.

They are bigger than word count.

Harder to plan than completing a book.

They are the things I want and then lean my life toward. I’ve been letting the Universe fill in the details.

How to be a Writer: A-Z Challenge

My themes for this year’s A-Z challenge are writing, the writer’s life, and living in the creative flow.

When non-writers in my life ask the question, “How do you do it?” and they are referring to the books I’ve written and I’m writing and not to my immaculately clean home (just kidding, my whole house is never all clean at the same time) I often spout a litany of “hows” that I’m just now realizing, only boil down to one simple way.

How to be a writer of fiction:

Think of a character, in a setting, that wants something they can’t have, sit down with a writing instrument and write that story.

Now sure, there are many aspects about writing well that you need to learn before you can write a good, comprehensible story. But even without all that craft and understanding of narrative structure, pretty much anyone can sit down and write a story about a person that wants something they can’t yet have.

Here’s the thing, many writers that do know, and are able to, craft a good and comprehensible story get hung up by one simple thing.

It’s that sitting down and writing the story.

Showing up.

Shutting up.

Blocking out.

Turning off.

Focusing on their story long enough and for enough days in a row to take all they’ve learned over the years and apply it to an actual story.

So how do I do it?

When I’m writing it’s more about what I don’t do:

Go out with friends
Allow or invite distractions of any kind

Some writers reject the simplicity of this because they resist letting these things go long enough to get to their work. They don’t have to risk that blank page, judgment, potentially feeling like a huge failure if they are always “too busy” to get around to writing in the first place.

And I understand that this resistance is fear based. I have experienced this fear too. But I’m much more afraid of being 90 and looking back with regret instead of shelves and shelves of books that I had the courage to show up for.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Growth: A-Z Challenge

My themes for this year’s A-Z challenge are writing, the writer’s life, and living in the creative flow.

I think it’s important to always think of yourself as “still learning” and growing toward being better.

Even if you are considered by many to be highly skilled, or “top of your field” there are always new angles, new perspectives, and variations on your themes that can deepen understanding and meaning.

Plus, it doesn’t matter how much you think you already know—someone else will always know more.

Being open to new and conflicting ideas that differ from yours can help ensure you maintain a growth mindset.

I teach writing in an MFA program and thus, I’m surrounded by much of the capital L literature. Most of my students want to write capital L literature.

I love and appreciate these types of books. My bookcase is filled with them.

I happen to also love and appreciate a ton of commercial books. My bookcase is filled with them.

I have, on many occasions, tried to encourage writers of all stripes to read wide and deep many, many different sorts of books. By my mind, there is much to be learned about language, imagery, and depth of character and themes from literary work. In turn, commercial fiction offers an unequalled education in pacing, plot, and developing a tight and interesting story that will keep your readers begging for more.

My favorite books, of course, walk that space between these two places. They are those fantastic books with literary caliber writing that deliver a story I simply cannot put down.

Some writers agree with this thinking. 
But I have found, by in large, that the merits of commercial fiction can be a tough sell to the strict literati.

And vice versa I should add.

I suppose that’s fine for the straight up reader. You love what you love after all.

But for the creation of books? I feel strongly that you are seriously limiting your growth as a writer if you are only ever reading your one thing.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Flow: A-Z Challenge

My themes for this year’s A-Z challenge are writing, the writer’s life, and living in the creative flow.

One thing that I’ve come to realize since I’ve started writing, and speaking about writing, and writing about writing, and teaching about writing…

not everyone has experienced that state sometimes referred to as Creative Flow.

From a psychological prospective, this interests me to no end.

For one, I wonder if these people really have not experienced this state, or simply have not recognized and labeled it as such.

Secondly, it raises all these questions I have about our collective presumptions that others have the same set of psychological experiences in the first place.

I certainly could not have labeled and defined this experience much before I started teaching and discussing the writing process with others. I now realize that the state is very similar to when I have been completely engrossed in reading a book. The words disappear and the conscious cognitive process of “reading” takes a backseat of sorts.

It is similar when I get into a writing flow, but not as completely immersive. Quite possibly because there are still so many physical functions to perform—who knows?

When I am deep into writing, I see the action projecting, feel the characters’ emotions, hear their words spoken—just like when I’m reading a book that has captured and temporarily shackled my conscious attention and shoved it away in my psychological basement.

I lose the world around me and dive deep into this other world.

Consequently, I love this place. I always have, ever since books became my thing. It is always an enormous annoyance to me to be dragged away from this space by “the real world”—especially the phone!

(I could write an entire hate rant about phones, but I’m off topic.)

So what is this creative flow?

It is hardest to explain or discuss with those who have never either experienced it or really thought about it. One outcome I will admit to is that often when I’ve spent an hour or two writing, I can read back over what I’ve written and I don’t fully remember writing everything that’s there.

Have you ever been driving your car and found yourself on autopilot? Have you had that experience of suddenly “waking up” at your destination, or near it, and realizing that you don’t really remember getting there? It’s most obvious to me when I find that I have autopiloted myself to a frequent location, like my home, that I didn’t intend to go to—damn, I needed to pick up milk first!

Something a bit like that.

It’s the ability to lose yourself and your surrounding and get completely lost inside your own head.

Lost in your own story.