No resolve

Happy new year, everyone! I do not have resolutions, as such. Usually I have a whole spreadsheet full of them all color-coded and broken into actionable steps with deadlines and status boxes and secret magical words of power. (I’m lying about the words of power.) Half of them still fall by the wayside by March. The spreadsheet only works if you open it up.

Anyway, I’m still motivated and ready to work hard in 2017. I’ll be finishing up my current urban fantasy series, and this last book is a really fun one to write. Later in the year, I’ll be launching a new epic/sword & sorcery fantasy trilogy under a slightly different pen name. (Stay tuned for cool things I might do to my website.) Epic fantasy was my first love, an affair that has continued unbroken since I was six years old. And this is a story I’ve had floating around in my head in one form or another for… I want to say about 20 years, which makes me feel old, so let’s not count. The point is, it’s a project I’m very excited to break ground on. Looking forward to a productive year.

For those who are kindly waiting for the last Devilborn book, spring seems the likely timeframe. As my NaNo posts show, my schedule was pushed around and bullied by some health issues that took its lunch money and then threatened to beat it up out by the dumpster after school. That bully is still being dealt with, but tossing it in juvie is another thing I’m hopeful for in 2017.

Come to think of it, I do have one resolution, in the category of slacking off: the new season of The Magicians starts this month. OBSESSED. It’s important to have good TV to watch when you’re sick a lot.

Also, I got this for Christmas. There will be a themed dinner. The movie will be shown. Themed clothing may be a factor.

Got any resolutions to share?

Eleven Questions for: Axel Blackwell

TWW
Timeless love.
Brutal cruelty.
An impossible decision.
So, The Timeweaver’s Wager, you guys. This book. People talk about page turners all the time, but this sort of redefines the term. It’s also dark and lovely and haunting and will stay with you long after you put it down. Do yourself a favor, and check it out. But do not open it until you have time to read it, because you will be really mean to anyone who makes you close it to do other stuff.
I was lucky enough to convince author Axel Blackwell to answer eleven questions about The Timeweaver’s Wager, writing, publishing, and life in general.

Q:
The Timeweaver’s Wager is the very definition of “couldn’t put it down.” Pacing is something a lot of writers struggle with. What’s your best tip for keeping the reader turning pages?
A:
If it’s boring, skip it. That’s what the readers are going to do, anyway. Save them the trouble. Both of my novels had a huge brick of text about halfway through—long boring explanations of backstory. This information was necessary to move the plot forward, but it sucked. In both cases, I slashed about half the scene, then broke up the rest by interrupting with current events or using other devices to keep the reader interested while I slipped the backstory in. It’s kinda like hiding your dog’s meds in a wad of ground beef.

Q:
You are being sent to live in the fictional world of your choice for one year. Upon your return, you may bring one thing back with you from that world. Where do you go, and what do you bring back?
A:
I’d probably go wherever they have dragons and bring one of those back. If you have a dragon you can pretty much get anything else you want.

Q:
Your books can get pretty dark at times. Have you ever scared yourself while writing a scene?
A:
When I was 19, I actually stopped writing (for several years) because I upset myself. The story was about an introvert who finally finds love. Unbeknownst to our MC, his other personality was very jealous, so he takes his girl on a moonlit walk through fresh snowfall at his mountain cabin—then chops off her foot and leaves her to die. It all made this horribly beautiful picture when I thought it up—the white snow, her white skin, the silver moon and a bright red blood trail to add a splash of color. But once I had created her character and his character, I couldn’t bear to do that to them. Fortunately, I have matured since then.

Q:
Planner or pantser?
A:
I have always been a pantser. Half the fun is finding out what happens next. When I sat down to write my previous novel, Sisters of Sorrow, all I knew was that Anna was hiding under a beached rowboat while the world was exploding around her, and something on the island wanted her parts. I had no idea, whatsoever, what the rest of the book was about, and no other characters in mind. However, The Timeweaver’s Wager is a rewrite of a story I first wrote in 2006 or 2007. The original, which was only about 12,000 words, acted as an outline for the final version. I was impressed with how much faster and easier the process went when I had a map to follow. So I am planning on experimenting with outlining my next project.

Q:
Fill in the blank: I cannot write a book without _____.
A:
Coffee. A good playlist helps, too.

Q:
Indie vs. trad is always a lively debate. What advice would you give writers who are just looking into publishing for the first time?
A:
I would advise them to ask someone who knows more about it than I. Seriously. There is an unbelievable amount of information available in various forums and online groups. And I would tell them none of that information will do them much good until they have written and published wrong a few times. There is so much to learn, and things change so quickly, OTJ training is probably the only way to get the hang of this gig.

As far as indie vs. trad, if you are just starting out I would say the traditional publishing route is a good idea IF you are willing to wait years for your first book to be published, willing to accept a pittance for your years of hard work and waiting, and willing to accept the high likelihood that your book will never be presented to a single reader, even if it is an excellent piece of work. But that’s just my opinion for beginners. If you make it big and the trads come knocking on your door, it might be worth your time to talk to them then.

Q:
Without getting into spoiler territory, if you were to sit down with Glen at those railroad tracks at the opening of The Timeweaver’s Wager, what would you say to him?
A:
“Just eat the damn casserole.”

Okay, I’d probably say a bit more, but Glen was on a good path. He was putting his life back together. He had realized that his grief had gone from serving Connie to serving himself, and he had come to the point of decision. Most of the time, tragedy in the past cannot be repaired. One must learn to accept life on the terms it presents. Glen was just on the cusp of doing this, which is why the Timeweaver’s wager is really a dilemma for him. I guess if I had any words for Glen in the opening chapter they would be, “Hang in there, buddy. This is gonna suck. Big time. But you’ll be glad you did it.”

Q:
Which of your own characters would you have dinner with, and why?
A:
I’d have to say Alan. That guy is just a joy to be around, makes you feel good about yourself, laughs at all your jokes, and somehow, no matter what life throws at him, he always seems to come out on top. Also, he’d probably spring for dinner at a much nicer restaurant than I could afford. I’ll just have to remember not to ask him about his past.

Q:
The Timeweaver’s Wager is a very different book from Sisters of Sorrow, but at their core they have some things in common. What would you say draws you most to a story? What kinds of stories are you most interested in telling?
A:
The world is full of darkness. It is dangerous and it is scary and if you encounter the darkness you will be permanently changed. Violence and disorder are the default setting for the human race. The artificial safety bubble we are born into is fragile as frost. But with sufficient courage and love and the proper application of force a hero can repel the darkness. The life that acknowledges and confronts this truth is much more vibrant than one built on ignorance and wishful thinking. Kinda like how the blacker the black on your LCD TV, the more brilliant the colors. I love stories in which innocence and evil come face to face, in which the heroes struggle to the very last ounce of their existence in defense of innocence, in which—live or die—the hero knows they did not capitulate or concede to the darkness.

Q:
Who are your biggest creative influences?
A:
My biggest influence, by far, is Stephen King, which I guess makes me a bit of a plebe, but the dude is popular for a reason. He is a master of his craft and he understands people—which is critical if one intends to invent people and direct their activities. I am also a big fan of Dean Koontz. My early influences were Bradbury and Lovecraft.

Q:
Best writing snack?
A:
Right now I’m really into Costco muffins. They are necessary to soak up all the coffee I drink. I also like Costco trail mix. But I pick out the almonds—one of the little ways I confront and repel the darkness.


If you’re an indie author and you’re up for answering eleven questions, email me.

Time for a new round of search term Q&A

We haven’t done this in forever, but my longer term peeps know I like to occasionally go through the WordPress report on the search terms that have brought people to my site, and do my best to oblige them with answers to their burning questions. So let’s get to it:

mr. rochester is an asshole: You seem to have worked this out on your own, so why the search? If you’re seeking confirmation, then yes. Mr. Rochester is an asshole. We love him anyway though, because Jane does, and that’s good enough for us.

supernatural x reader lemon: Last time I did this, I had one that said mr rochester x reader lemon. Now this. I’m not quite sure I’ve got the proper decoder ring. Um, drink more Ovaltine?

scariest things: Spiders, clowns, creepy dolls, walking across your dark room to your bed when you just know a pale slimy hand is about to reach out from under it and grab you (No? Just me?), deep water, any vague unidentified problems that involve calling a plumber or an electrician.

terrifying jaws: Assuming you mean the shark, then yes, I can confirm that Jaws is terrifying. Human jaws are not even unsettling.

illidan wisely say: You are not prepared.

formatting messed up on createspace template: You’ve got to watch those guys, it’s true. Just double check the centering on your headers and footers; they like to leave the first line indent in there, so it’s not really centered at all.

the north remembers: YES IT DOES.

jen rasmussen: You’ve come to the right place! Except, there is another Jen Rasmussen who seems to be an expert bee keeper. I am not her, and I’m afraid my only knowledge of honey is as it relates to tea or baking bread. I’m not fond of bees.

jen rasmussen hawaii: Sign me up!

jen rasmussen porn: Do not sign me up!

jen is cow: Now you’re just being rude.

richard armitage nude: You again? Well, points for persistence. But I’m afraid I can’t help you.

gaming with jen facebook: I’m not into Facebook games, but if you want to do some WoW pet battles, I am your girl.

I also get quite a few visitors who arrive here after various searches having to do with Authors United, but honestly, I just don’t even want to talk about them anymore. It’s gotten too ridiculous to even mock.

Search terms: you ask, I answer

This is one of my favorite games to play on my other blog, but I don’t think I’ve ever done it here. I feel it’s only polite to try to help those who visit me seeking something specific. Luckily, WordPress can tell me what they were looking for.

real dornish peppers: It would have been better for you to hear this from a loved one, but I’m afraid there’s not a real Dorne. I imagine you could substitute any of several varieties of chili?

things that are not scary: Macaroons. Napkins. Toothpaste. The Blair Witch Project.

sansa loves lemon cakes: Yep.

jen rasmussen hawaii nude: Not that I recall.

richard armitage butt: Seriously, four of you in the last thirty days? I am not the proper resource for this. Meaning no offense to Mr. Armitage, there aren’t very many people whose butts I care to know stuff about.

american horror story briefly topics: Ghosts, aliens, medical experiments gone awry, odd explanations for the Black Dahlia, creepy clowns, creepy nuns, creepy war criminals, completely uncreepy and nonsensical witches, serial killers, and ladies who want babies. Not in that order.

info on murder of jen rasmussen: I imagine I’d be the last to know.

we found a witch may we burn her: How do you know she’s a witch?

jen scary thing: Not generally. Maybe if that Hawaii thing was true.

where do you send for letter to cary fukunaga: I can’t help with this, but if you write to him, tell him I loved his Jane Eyre!

four and tris with supernatural powers: I agree this would be cool.

excessive planning: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS.

i would always rather be happy than dignified: Jane and I both approve.

mr rochester x reader lemon: This is almost certainly code for something, but as I’m not a Cold War spy, I don’t know what. Perhaps my commenters can offer suggestions, if it wouldn’t blow their cover.

Happy whatnots

Happy new year, and any other holidays you may or may not celebrate during this festive season. I’ll be back in regular form after the first of the year, when I’m done with all this baking.

Stay safe, drive sober, GET OFF YOUR PHONE, resolve many things you won’t do, live long and prosper, may the force be with you, the greatest adventure is what lies ahead, and so on and so forth.

Everyone hail to the pumpkin song

Eleven things for Halloween:

1. The post title, of course, comes from the song “This is Halloween” in A Nightmare Before Christmas. This was the correct answer to the October poll asking for the best Halloween movie. Fifty percent of you got it right.

2. The other half of you chose It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, which is certainly a good one. But you’re still doing Halloween wrong if you don’t know Jack Skellington is the pumpkin king.

3. Nobody chose either Halloween or Night of the Living Dead. I was especially surprised that Michael Myers did not garner a single vote, although I quite agree with you. (By the way, there is no November poll because mah book is being released next week and will be occupying the sidebar space where the poll normally sits. But I’m sure we can all agree that the best Thanksgiving pie is cherry anyway. Shut up with your pumpkin.)

4. ahsclownAmerican Horror Story, which was maybe the least scary thing on TV last year, is the scariest it’s been since Season 1 this year, and maybe even scarier. You really can’t beat a creepy clown when it comes to scares, and John Carroll Lynch is giving us the creepiest one since Tim Curry played Pennywise.

5. The adaptation of It in which Tim Curry played Pennywise was not scary, despite Curry doing a fantastic job. The production values were… not high. So there’s no point in watching that for Halloween, but you might consider reading it, because it still wins my scariest book ever award.

6. ‘Salem’s Lot and Pet Sematary are my runners up for scariest Stephen King books. His son Joe Hill’s NOS4A2 is also really scary.

7. That family hasn’t got the corner on scary, of course. The Haunting of Hill House is a classic that stands up, and Poe will always be the master. I haven’t read much lately that genuinely scared me, though. (By all means, give me your recommendations in comments.)

8. If you want a movie instead, my personal picks for scariest movies are Seven and Silence of the Lambs.

9. Last year’s The Conjuring deserves a mention too, because it brought the scary back to scary movies. We need less of that nauseating found footage nonsense, and more good old fashioned scares.

10. I’m going to say it one more time, movie people: startle does not equal scare. Don’t just make me jump and call it a day. I’m not going to have nightmares about being startled. You’ve got to disturb me.

11. My fun sized candy bar of choice this year is Almond Joy. Yours?

September wind-down

Just a week left in September. Time to stow away the Earth, Wind, and Fire and pull out the Danny Elfman. I think that’s not a bad trade. I’ve always felt that October is unequivocally the best month of the year. And not just because of the Halloween treats. Okay, mostly because of the Halloween treats. But also foliage! And fall weather! And the Carolina Renaissance Festival! Although let’s face it, the purpose of the Ren Faire has a lot to do with caramel apples, which just brings us back to treats.

My next newsletter is coming in early October and will include the recipe for the coconut-curry-lentil soup that sustains me for the first half of NaNoWriMo. Whether you participate in NaNo or not, this soup is just the best if you live somewhere that has autumn. Or lentils. Also in that newsletter: the first look at the ebook cover for Ghost in the Canteen, the latest release information, and great mostly-semi-healthy snacks to eat at your desk.

Speaking of NaNo, the site always resets around October 1, so that’s a good time to register, if you haven’t already. If you’re into the November madness and want to be my buddy, I’m hiding there under the very clever alias of jenrasmussen.

Finally, you’ve only got another week to cast your vote in the September poll in the sidebar. Frankly, I’m kind of surprised the Joan Fontaine/Orson Welles version hasn’t gotten more love, though it’s not my personal favorite. I’m sure the October poll will be something super fun an exciting! Well, mostly sure. I haven’t thought of it yet.

Everything is awesome

So here is the website redesign. What do you think? Super exciting and super awesome? I can’t link you to the artist because she hasn’t got a site up and running yet, but the rook drawings were done by hand and scanned. I know zilch about graphics so the process was fun to learn about. (The guy who did the scanning asked me if I needed a vector image. I don’t know what that is, so I said I didn’t think so. Do I need a vector image?) The same artist will be doing my book cover, and I’ll have some of that artwork going up soon.

Speaking of which, I know you already know all about my book, because I give you no choice when you come to my site but to LOOK AT MY BOOK PAGE. But I can’t expect you to remember it all the way in November, so be sure to sign up for my newsletter and you’ll get a reminder. I’ll post a sample here when the final proofreading is done.

And speaking of that, I am so happy to have found a proofreader I’m looking forward to working with. Be sure to check out her site if you’re in the market for one, because that was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I’ve done some proofreading myself and I intend to start picking up some freelance proofreading later this year, so maybe I’m picky, but isn’t being picky sort of the point? Of proofreading? So you shouldn’t have half a dozen errors on the same page where you suggest I pay you hundreds of dollars to proofread my book. Also protip: if you think proofreader is two words, you aren’t one. I’m not naming names. I’m just saying.

(Now that I’ve said that, someone will be along to point out half a dozen errors in this post or on my site somewhere. Which is why everyone needs a proofreader. It doesn’t matter how well you know your stuff. You can’t see the stuff in your own stuff.)

That brings me to my last speaking-of-which, because I like to end my posts on an angry and snotty note whenever possible:

Hachette, people.

There is no t in the middle. This is driving me completely bonkers. If you’re a writer, spelling things right is part of your job. So if you expect me to take your opinion on this whole thing seriously, you need to learn to spell the names of the parties involved.

*Post title ripped off from The Lego Movie, which is indeed awesome.

Intermission

For those kind souls who have inquired as to whether I’m dead: I’m not quite dead yet! I think I’ll go for a walk! I feel happy… I feel happy…

However, this site is going through a super exciting, super excellent redesign, and will become super exciting and super excellent some time in August. In the meanwhile, it will continue to be obstinately silent.