Friday, January 12, 2018

5 Ways to Pull Yourself Out of a Writing Slump



Ah, winter. It’s beautiful. It’s cold. It rekindles your love for blankets and hot cocoa. But it can also pull you into a slump—well, at least, winter has that sort of effect on me. Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE this time of year. Prefer it over the hot, sticky, triple-digit weather inherent of Louisiana in summertime. However, December and January are the months I find most difficult to write and be inspired. I start out as I always do: at the page. Blinking cursor. What do I write today? Where am I going with this? Is this really the story I want to write? And there are days I keep going, fingers flying. But then there are others when I say, “Nuh uh. Not doin’ it,” and then allow myself to get sucked in to either social media or Netflix or both.

However, at the end of the day, writers write. It’s what we do. And if we’re not doing it…well. We can’t be held responsible for the mayhem that may ensue. We always have a story to tell. Problem is…Which one? We begin to ask ourselves whether we’re writing in the right genre. What if I’m better at fantasy? Mystery? Romance? Erotica seems to be selling really well—I’ve seen the indie authors on Facebook with their flashy, appealing ads. Maybe they’re just better at this than I am. Maybe I shouldn’t be doing this at all. What if I’m not a writer at all and I’ve been kidding myself since I was…what? Eleven?

I’m here to tell you: Get that last one out of your head, all right? You’re a writer. There, I said it. And you have a story to tell, so tell it. That’s right. Go on. Get those words on paper. Erotica, Mystery, Thriller, Fantasy…Heck, write a combination of all four! It’s your story, your baby. So, get going already.

While you’re at it, here are a few tips to pull yourself from a writing slump and help you refocus:


1.      Set realistic goals. This seems obvious, I know, but it really does help. Currently, I’m working on two contemporary, full-length romance novels, as well as edits for the third installment of my young adult series. The third book of The Symbolon Series will be published by July 10th. My goal is to be finished with at least one of the two contemporaries by that time, as well. If I can swing three releases this year, I’m going for it.

2.       Hit a writing retreat or conference. Nothing gets me fired up like being around other writers. Check for local or relatively-local conferences you can attend and get ready to learn. If you’re in Louisiana or Mississippi, the Jambalaya Writer’s Conference is coming up on March 3 and it’s only $35 if you register early!

3.       Adjust your environment. Declutter your desk. Bring in a new plant or a cool new notebook. If outside noise doesn’t bother you, nestle yourself and your laptop in a corner at Starbucks. Or go to a park and breathe in the fresh air while you write! Changing your environment tricks the brain into creative thinking.

4.       Don’t leave too much time between writing sessions. Even if you can’t write on your manuscript (I love this story, but, ugh, my heroine! Is she trying to be this stupid?!), write a blog post, an opening to a new story or an entry into that journal you’ve been meaning to begin for the last decade. Just write.

5.       Don’t burn out. Writing’s work, y’all. I mean, you can try to skirt the truth any way you want, but that won’t make it any less real. Not only that, but it’s hard. However, there’s a reason you started writing. For me, I was fourteen and the kid in between freshly-divorced parents. I didn’t want to write about myself, so I wrote about fictional characters and…well…I just never stopped. In short, writing is an escape for me; a way to deal with the chaos in my head. But the minute it becomes TOO much like work, I have to take a step back and remember why I started writing in the first place. Write what you can and often and you’ll find the will to keep going.

So, don’t let those negative thoughts in, okay? Get out, bad, brooding creepie-crawlies! Be gone! Because you can do this. Really, you can! Pull yourself up and write your story. 

What do you do when you find yourself in a slump?
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Monday, January 1, 2018

2017 At a Glance | Looking Ahead to 2018


Ah, here it is. The close of an entire year, turned beginning of a brand new, wide open panorama of possibilities. 2017 was...busy, but I'm sure that's true of everyone. Goals were set; goals were accomplished. Not all, mind; I didn't see Bruno Mars in concert (yet) and I'm convinced once that happens, planets will align, unicorns will appear in nearby forests, the government will begin to behave themselves and...Yeah. In other words, yada, yada, yada. 

I love him, okay? And true love lasts forever.

Moving on.

I published the second novel in The Symbolon Series: The Second Curse. Couldn't be more pleased with the response from readers (THANK YOU!), especially all of you who came out to see me at conventions and book signings. You guys rock! The third book is written and in edits; the fourth (and final) has begun. Ah, the end is in sight!

Read a lot this year, actually. Many amazing stories, my favorite of which--and this one really takes the cake; if you haven't read it, do--was The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Thought-changing, that novel. If ever I have the honor of meeting Ms. Thomas (she's from Jackson, Mississippi, my home state, so...hopeful thoughts!), there's a very big chance I'll cry.


The Moody Blues made the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, y'all. I mean...Yes. Okay? A million times, yes, yes, YES. About time.

My kid had his fifth birthday in February, began Kindergarten in August and basketball in November. He's having an absolute blast. Fully expecting him to start college in the fall.


Hubs celebrated his 50th and crossed off an important item from his Bucket List: We went to Cincinnati (his hometown) and watched the Bengals beat the Bills on their home field in Paul Brown Stadium. Seeing him that emotional gave me all the feels. All of them.


GOALS (Let's do this!):

1. Book 3 of the The Symbolon Series, THREE TO SHATTER, is set for a lovely mid-June release, just in time for summer holiday. Extensive deets about that later. Yes, for all of you paying attention, that was a title reveal. Ta da!

2. Two contemporary adult romances are in the works, both half-way finished. Been a while since I published a proper grown-up love story, and I'm looking forward to getting these two out to you guys. Both will be full-length novels I've wanted to write for a long time.

3. Weight loss. Because what else? Seriously. I'm not buying a new wardrobe, so sweets have gotta go bye-bye for a while. Pray for me.

4. Vacay! Don't know where yet, but we're going. Thinking someplace with mountains and scenic trails. Drop a comment with your suggestions. 

5. Events, events, events. Look for book signings spreading throughout the southern states. Local bookshops, conventions and writerly workshops--we're hitting it up in style this year. Stay posted in the website's Events section. 

I'd love to read the goals you reached last year, what stands out to you, what surprises arose and the stories that made for a memorable 2017! Also, what new goals have you set for 2018? Cheers!

Peace, Love and Junior Mints,





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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Buckeyes (Recipe)



INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups peanut butter 
1/2 cup butter (softened)
1 lb powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips or chocolate "almond" bark (easier to use)
Crisco or baker's wax (for hardening; otherwise, the chocolate will remain soft)

DIRECTIONS

1. Mix peanut butter, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla in mixer.

2. Shape clumps into about 1" balls (roll them around between your palms 'til they're perfect).

3. Refrigerate for at least 1/2 an hour. We stick ours in the freezer; it's quicker.

4. Melt chocolate with a dollop of either Crisco or shaved baker's wax in a double-broiler. If you don't have a double-broiler, you can use your microwave, but be careful! The chocolate gets HOT.

5. Insert toothpick into chilled peanut butter balls and dip into chocolate, swirling around and leaving a bit of the peanut butter peeking through to make the "buckeye".

6. Cool on wax paper.

7. Store in refrigerator. We use empty, clean Country Crock butter bowls.


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Monday, December 11, 2017

Thank You


Well, what can I say? We've had a great year promoting books, signing books, talking with readers and writers about books and all that bookerly jazz. Yes, okay? Bookerly's a word. No, no. Don't look it up. Trust is a good thing.

Moving on.


This past weekend, fellow fantasy author Lela Robichaux and I had the privilege of being a part of the wonderful geekiness that is Shreve Con, a two-day event at our very own gorgeous Centenary College. We saw an alien dressed up as Santa Claus, Wolverine dressed up as Santa Claus and even jolly old Saint Nick himself, who was frequently mistaken for the Pope, bless his heart. Captain America strolled one aisle, while SuperGirl took another. Vendors displayed marvelous works of art from paintings to jewelry, custom fountain pens, comic books, novels and stuffed, hand-crocheted Pokemon. And that's only naming a few. To say we had a great time would be a tremendous understatement, most especially since there was actual swordplay happening at the end of our row. Knights, shields, swords, armor--yes, the real thing. So cool.


Huge thanks to all of you who came out to purchase signed copies of The Symbolon Series this year. I had a great time chatting, taking photos and listening to your favorite parts in the books. You guys are what keep my fingers going on the keyboard. #teamathen #teamnyle

Photo Cred: @beetlebomber52

Peace, Love and Junior Mints,



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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Power to Make Change


So, I missed International Day of the Girl, a day that began about five years ago in which we address the needs and challenges women face in our society, empower women’s rights and encourage women to set and reach their goals. Really, we should be doing this every day—to all people, regardless of gender, but, of course having a day of awareness for any great cause is a good thing.

Above is a photo taken by my author friend, Mallory Gaile, of me signing books at the Lincoln Parish Central Library in Ruston, Louisiana. I began writing novels when I was fourteen and had the encouragement of not only my family and friends, but also my teachers. The public education I received, a blessing in this country, prepared me for my life as a professional.

Today, however, there are over 260 MILLION children who will not attend school.

Chilling, isn't it?

I read daily. I read to my son daily. Books are a natural part of our existence; we look to them for research, entertainment and, oftentimes, to simply unwind and escape to a world different from the one in which we live. But there are children who cannot read—children who grow up to be adults who cannot read. It’s not only unthinkable but unequivocally heartbreaking.

You may be thinking, “Honestly, Alyssia, I get all this, but what do you expect me to do about it?” Nothing, to be honest. What you choose to do in this life is exactly that: Your Choice. However, if you want to make difference, if there’s a little voice inside of you saying, “I want to do SOMEthing, someway, somehow to help further the education of someone who needs it,” start by donating books to local libraries and schools. Write a check or donate books to an after-school program who helps both children and adults learn to read or, better yet, ask how you go about volunteering for an hour or two. Every area has easily accessible information on organizations who strive to educate your community. Organizations who aren’t funded by the government and who rely solely on volunteers and the generosity of patrons willing to support their efforts.

So, yeah. This post started out about International Day of the Girl and, yes, let’s support and promote that mindset. With the onslaught of people—not just women, folks…people—who have come forward with their stories of sexual harassment and assault, I feel we’re in a whole new moment in time to stand up and bring awareness to us all as the human race who inhabits this planet. But let’s push that even further by remembering how very blessed we are—how blessed YOU are, if you’re reading and comprehending this post; a teacher taught you how to do that!—and work to help others do the same.

I love you guys. To all of you who use your voice to call out those topics that make people squirm, I applaud and thank you. We’re living in an age in which speaking out is vital to make real change. Let’s work to make that happen.

Peace, Love and Junior Mints,


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Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Symbolon Series: Totally Awesome Playlist (Side A)


It's no secret one of the questions we get asked the most as writers is, "Where do you get your inspiration?" If you've been with me long enough, you know I'm a music girl, and music plays a BIG part in my writing process. Funnily enough, last week, I received two messages from readers, asking if I had playlists for The Symbolon Series. Yes, I do, and you can snag the details here: Playlists. You'll find a little bit of everything, some of which are repeats from book to book.

However, amongst the hundreds and hundreds of tracks, there are a few gems that are scene-specific, and if I had to make a mix-tape, a la Guardians of the Galaxy, with limited space, these are the ones that would make Side A:

1. Shake the Disease by Depeche Mode | This song is Nyle and, when I hear it, he's immediately who jumps to mind, front and center. One of my go-to methods for plotting is to lie down with my earbuds and allow my brain to formulate scenes. In one such instance, while I was still in the middle of writing book one, I had Shake the Disease on loop and saw Scylla leaving a room in a beautiful gown. She was running, breathless, looking over her shoulder every few seconds as if she was being followed. And there was Nyle in determined pursuit.  From his point of view, he never could catch up, almost like he was trapped in a dream. He'd see a glimpse of her dress as she rounded a corner, catch the flash of her eyes as she twisted her neck to look behind. I finally got to write this scene in The Second Curse (Book 2).

2. Bound to You by Christina Aguilera | This one is Athen and Scylla. In fact, it's so Athen and Scylla that the last time I watched Burlesque (Hubs and I love this movie, ok? Tell anyone, we'll deny it...), when the scene came up where Christina sings this song, not only did my eyes fill with tears, but suddenly I felt like I was reliving Athen's and Scylla's love story all over again.

3. Better Love by Hozier | A surprise, this song. Not that I don't like Hozier, but once upon a time, Take Me to Church was so overplayed, I almost fell out of love with the man. Not his fault, of course; he's a talented artist. But this song...THIS song. Better Love makes the list because I wrote the first small battle Athen and Scylla tackled all by themselves to it on loop, and, whenever I hear it, I still see Scylla in a formal gown and perfect hair playing warrior-princess like a pro. Readers, you'll see this scene in Book 3 (squee!).

4. Phoenix Rises by John Powell | Finally, an instrumental, right? You'd be surprised by how many different movie scores and classical music compilations I listen to while writing. This little diamond is from X-Men: The Last Stand, and it personifies the scene from The Other Half (Book 1) wherein the companions (Athen, Scylla, Ryder, Gen, Landar & Meav) are running from the frost giants. When the music climaxes at 2:27, that's Athen creating the pillar of fire at the mouth of the mountain pass, barring the frost giants from further advancement. I can see the awe on everyone's faces, the shock of witnessing such unparalleled power. At 3:33, he brings down the mountain, killing the giants, and finally falls to his knees, the magic having robbed his body of strength.

5. Run Boy Run by Woodkid | One of the last scenes in The Other Half (Book 1) is when the cast is running from a mob of insurgents (I just realized they seem to be running a lot. Hmm.), toward the wall that separates the frozen lands from Creden's celestial domain. Run Boy Run was on loop when I wrote that scene. It's the perfect combination of modern and orchestral.

6. Fortress Around Your Heart by Sting | I saved this one for last, because it's been with me the longest. Fortress is one of a handful of songs I wrote to at fourteen, when writing books was something I did for fun and only, like, two people knew about it (best friend, boyfriend). It makes the cut, because there's a fantasy-feel to this track that reminds me of riding horses through open fields with castles rising in the distance. When I need to be reminded why I write and, most specifically, why I continue to write stories with romantic elements, I can always count on this one to do the job.

Thanks for reading! If you've read the series and a song jumped to your mind during a specific scene or for a particular character, tell me about it! I'd love to add more songs to my playlists. Cheers!

Peace, Love and Junior Mints,

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