Thursday, January 29, 2015

Writing Journal, 1-29-15

Well, Thomas & Mercer has relaunched the first two books of the Huntress series this week, and I woke up  to the very happy circumstance of Huntress Moon and Blood Moon being at the top of the crime fiction charts in several categories. It's a thrill to have this many new readers being introduced to the books all at once, and I deeply thank those of you who are already following the series for patiently (or not so patiently, I know!) allowing other readers to catch up before the launch of Cold Moon.  It's been hard for me, too, but the wait is almost over, and it's the best thing to have happened for the series in the long run.



Meanwhile, for the last three months I've been crazily editing, re-editing, and doing production work to get the three books ready for the launch, along with seizing a window (or what I thought was a window at the time...) to finish the expanded and revised Story Structure workbook.  

And I've been feeling like I've completely lost touch with what I was planning to do with Book 4 of the series and my new series.  In fact, that anxiety has built to a state that I suspect is what most people talk about when they say "writer's block."

Which is a bit of a crazy thing to say, given all the nonstop writing I've been doing for months. But it's not that first draft, new book writing.  I feel like I've been away from those two books so long I've lost all momentum. I've even thought I should just start all over with some new idea.

But this week I've had the truly interesting experience of being able to go back over some of my old journals of a really bad time of my life, when I was actually starting to work on the second draft of Huntress Moon. And with that documentary proof staring me right in the face,  I've been absolutely shocked to realize that I was not in any way concentrating on writing that book from start to finish.  It was a completely chaotic process that encompassed MANY stops and starts.  I wrote a whole paranormal book on contract in between the first draft and second draft of Huntress Moon.  I also finished a second writing workbook - Writing Love, the romance-centric version of Screenwriting Tricks for Authors.  And I turned in two other book proposals, AND I got four books of my backlist back from my publisher and turned them into e books, meaning scanning, formatting, covers, etc.

In other words, my actual state of being and writing was exactly as chaotic and with as many sidelines and distractions as it is right now.

I was floored.  Here I had been thinking for the last half year that I had lost my ability to write books because I wasn't writing the new project from start to finish with no detours.  Now I find that that's not how I actually write books at all.  In fact, I might actually need those big gaps between drafts to let my books simmer on the back burner.

That discovery is a huge relief (although it also makes me think I might need therapy…).  And the weird thing is - I had completely forgotten that that was my process.  Writing a book is so encompassing, and hypnotic - almost like living in a dream for the entire time that you're writing.  Afterward you don't really remember how it happened.  But in this case, I'm so very grateful that I have  those sporadically-kept journals to remind me that writing is messy, and filled with anxiety and distractions, and seems endless, and makes me kind of crazy.  I really needed to see that where I am is completely normal, in all its insanity, and I CAN do it this way, because this is the way I do it.

So, authors - do you keep writing journals?  Have you ever had a similar experience, of getting hope and comfort from going back over those to see what your writing process actually is compared to what you THINK it is?

And readers - do you keep journals?  There are very few therapies or recovery programs that don't advocate journaling as a tool for discovery and healing.  Is that your experience?

     - Alex















Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Huntress series relaunches - win a Kindle Voyage!

Thomas & Mercer is so excited about the re-releases of the first two books in the Huntress/FBI Thrillers series (HUNTRESS MOON and BLOOD MOON) that they’re giving me enough prizes for three whole months of giveaways leading up to the highly anticipated release of Book 3, COLD MOON. Prizes include three Kindle Voyages!

 If you've already subscribed to the mailing list on this website, you’re automatically entered in each month’s giveaway.

But just so you know - being subscribed to my Screenwriting Tricks blog is NOT the same as being subscribed to my personal mailing list. I keep the two lists separate so that you all only get the e mails you want from me.

You can sign up for my thriller mailing list and enter the contest on my Contest Page.

Giveaway #1:  Enter January 1 through January 31

      First Prize: 1 New Kindle Voyage 

      Second Prize: Books 1-3 of the Huntress/FBI Thrillers in trade paperback, signed by me 

      Third prize: An audiobook edition of HUNTRESS MOON (50 winners - 1 audiobook each)




Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Review copies of Huntress Moon and Blood Moon

The first two books of my Thriller Award-nominated Huntress/FBI series are now available for download on Net Galley. Librarians, reviewers, bookstore folk, or bloggers who would like a review copy of either or both of these books, please email me (Alex  AT  alexandrasokoloff  DOT com)  and I'll get you links and instructions.


Please feel free to share with bloggers, reviewers, librarians and bookstore people you  know!

Thanks a million...  Alex



https://s3.amazonaws.com/netgalley-covers/cover58779-small.png


























On another front, I have a question about the print version of Story Structure: Screenwriting Tricks for Authors.  If you're interested in buying the print book, would you prefer it in trade paperback size, or a larger workbook size, like 8x10  or 8.5x11?

I appreciate the feedback!

- Alex 

Edited to add:   Wow, I just saw that the Huntress Moon audiobook is on sale on Amazon US right now for just $1.99! That's an incredible deal.




Saturday, January 10, 2015

Screenwriting Tricks for Authors is coming in print!


Yes, FINALLY, I’ve done the overhaul I needed to do with that book. I’ve revised the basic sections to reflect all the great stuff I’ve learned in the last few years (teaching writing workshops and film classes), and doubled the content, including adding six more full movie breakdowns. 

And now that I’ve done that, I’m putting out a print version, because it’s the one request I get most often on this blog and in workshops.

So many of you authors and aspiring authors have said such great things about the book and my workshops, and I’d like to add some of those testimonials to the book. So I’m putting out a call for blurbs: if you’ve used my Screenwriting Tricks or Writing Love workbooks, or taken one of my workshops, and would like to say something about the books or my teaching that I can include in the print version, I would be most appreciative! And of course I’ll credit your own books (“Your name, author/bestselling author/award-winning author of……”) in the blurb.  

Just message me here or drop me an email  (Alex  AT AlexandraSokoloff DOT com) if you’d like to contribute.

(The book will release in early March, after the rollout of my Huntress Moon series beginning on January 27.)

Thanks a million!

- Alex


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The ebooks will remain available at the same low price: any format, just $3.99 and $2.99.



Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amaxon DE

Amazon FR

Amazon ES

Amazon IT


If you're a romance writer, or have a strong love plot or subplot in your novel or script, then Writing Love: Screenwriting Tricks II is an expanded version of the first workbook with a special emphasis on love stories.


Smashwords (includes online viewing and pdf file)

Amazon US

Barnes & Noble/Nook

Amazon UK

Amazon DE



------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sign up for my Story Structure mailing list to receive movie breakdowns, story structure articles, and other bonus materials.

(This mailing list is NOT the same as the RSS feed of the blog - you must opt in to this list to receive the extras mailings.)
Story Structure extras

* required

*



Email & Social Media Marketing by VerticalResponse

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

A month of resolutions


  
It’s still technically the New Year and I was looking back over some of my old New Year’s blogs and realizing that I basically have the same resolutions every year. With a bit of variation, but basically, the same.

And it occurred to me that it would be really intensely focusing for me to take those resolutions – or intentions – one at a time throughout the month and explore what I want to accomplish or how I want to live in each one of those areas.

Who knows if that will actually happen, given my work schedule and the rollout of the Huntress series starting on January 27! But I know for sure I haven’t been doing enough checking in with myself lately, and this is one way to challenge myself to do that.  

So here's one of those New Year blogs I'm looking at, with 2015 updates to come.



Intentional New Year
Hmm, wow, I get to blog on New Year’s Day.  That’s a lot of pressure!  Or not.  Maybe everyone will love me if I just speak very softly and in words of fewer than two syllables.
First of all, can I just say (for more than just myself, I know) –
THANK GOD IT’S 2011.
I wish everyone here, and all our families and friends – and while I’m at it every sentient being on the planet – a joyful, ecstatically fulfilling, and transcendent year.
Okay, so the timing of this clearly means I was actually meant to do some actual resolutions.   But let’s say intentions, instead, because that word is more focusing for me and doesn’t remind me so much of dieting. 
What – (that is suitable for public posting) – do I really desire for this year, in the obvious main areas of my life?
- Living:  Be more conscious. 
Of everything – but what I mean by conscious is paying attention to what my life is telling me, and the Universe is telling me.   On good days I believe that the Universe is speaking to us all the time, even or especially on the bad days, and that the most fulfilling way of living is to listen for that guidance and be as much in the flow as we can be.  Unfortunately, most days I forget all that entirely as I get caught up in all the stuff, you know, the STUFF, and if you forget it too many days in a row you tend to start not believing it.   So I will pay attention to the synchronicities, and those small, insistent pushes, and those overtly symbolic dreams that scream at you in multileveled Technicolor  Stay away from that one you idiot or if you live you will regret it every day for the rest of your life  – and do my best to live every day as if I really have a purpose in life and even more importantly – that life has a purpose for me.
- Relationships:  Hmm, all right, without going into detail…
Love everyone more – but with better boundaries.  Look to recognize the god/dess in everyone.   As for the rest, sorry, but I did say only what was fit to post publicly.
- Dancing:  Dance more.  Period. 
I’m just a better person when I dance every day.  It makes everything better.
- Teaching:  Keep growing as a teacher, finding new ways to inspire people to tell the best stories they can.
But also, be more integrated about living my writing in my teaching and my teaching in my writing.  I think what I mean by this is – there’s no reason to compartmentalize.  It’s all part of the same process.   You only really teach by doing.
- Writing
Hmm.  
Yes, this is my living, but I’ve got to say it’s terrifying to think of how many books I’ve committed to write this year.  Scary doesn’t begin to describe it – I must have been insane.   Actually, I think we’ve already established this.   But it’s too late to panic, now – I am just going to have to take it one day at a time, and learn how to not fight the process. Writing is always going to be exhausting: I like how author Joe Landsdale puts it:  “You never really rest; the synapses are firing all the time.”  But I am starting – starting – to believe I can be more gentle with myself about it and get just as much done, probably more.  Or better.   I have an inner slave driver that needs to get over itself.  I’m going to be more aware of when that self-punishing impulse in me starts to take over and just not let that happen.  I hope.
My writing intention is to write better books. 
Right – but how?  I think it has to do with committing even more to each story and the process – to recognize fear when it comes up and instead of pulling back and doing things to distract myself, treat the fear as a signpost that I’m on to something important and treat it as an opportunity to go deeper.   Again, this seems to be about being more conscious.
- Career:   Well, not like you can separate this from writing, but –
At Bouchercon in San Francisco this – I mean last! – year, I was in the bar – I mean lobby – bitching to Rob Gregory Browne and Marcus Sakey:  “I need to do something DIFFERENT.”  And Marcus said, “Honey, we’re all there.”
Hearing him say that was a huge reality check, because I realized he’s right in every way.  In fact, that’s always going to be the state of a writer’s career, or any artist’s.  We are always going to feel like we need to do something different – which means not just different, but also doing it differently.  And in fact we HAVE to always be doing something different, and differently.   It’s a good thing.
What I want to keep for every day of this year was the total inspiration I felt at Bouchercon – my sense of awe and pride about being able to live and work in the incredible worldwide community of mystery and thriller writers, to be constantly inspired and encouraged and often blown away by the creative risks my colleagues are taking, and to learn from their skill and commitment and passion to bring more depth and power to my own stories.   Lee Child says: “As crime writers we are all constantly building the genre with the work we do.”   My intention is to be more conscious that I am helping to build the genre, and to do my part with the work I do this year.   I think if I stay focused on that, the career will take care of itself.
I wish everyone here whatever is that inspiration for you.
So anyone out there want to share some intentions? 

- Alex

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Goodbye, 2014 (and thanks for all the fish!)



Astronomical Clock, Prague
So, it’s that time again, when we’re compelled to do wrap ups of the old year and project into the new one. Never a bad thing, and especially helpful in sorting out the brain-draining whirlwind that the holidays can be, and setting priorities for the year to come.

2014 was a good year. I settled into a new life in Scotland and acquired a great new family. The year was full of celebrations: my brother’s wedding, my nephew’s naming day, my niece’s engagement, the one-two-three holiday punch that we get in the UK: Christmas, Boxing Day and Hogmanay (Scottish for New Year’s Eve).


Gullfloss, Iceland

There was a lot of fantastic travel: Prague in February; Yorkshire in March; New Orleans in May; San Francisco and then Harrogate in July; Ireland in August; the Highlands in October. In November, we visited San Diego, Long Beach, and Joshua Tree, and then went straight on to Iceland. (Yes, I’m still having haunting wilderness dreams…). I love having a whole new continent at my doorstep and a fellow traveler to explore it with!



This has also been a year of waiting, which I’m not very good at.

There were some frustrating delays in the re-release of the Huntress series. The delays put me off my own schedule and I’ve had to hold off on releasing the other book I finished this year: Story Structure: a revised and expanded textbook version of Screenwriting Tricks for Authors, in print! - with double the content and new story breakdowns. It’s been really hard to sit on it, but it makes no business sense to publish that book before the Huntress series comes out, with all the attendant marketing that Thomas & Mercer has planned for it.

The constant flips in the schedule also slowed down my writing on the first book of the new series I’ve started, a crime series set half in Scotland and half in LA (well, isn’t everyone always saying “Write what you know”?)

Delays aren’t fun. We want what we want as soon as we want it. But sometimes the Universe has other plans. Maybe I was being given time to adjust to my Scottish life. Maybe this revised schedule is the best possible timing for the series. Whatever the reason, the wait that seemed interminable is almost over, the launch is just around the corner, and it’s time to get excited about the series reaching so many new readers.

So this month Huntress Moon and Blood Moon will be re-released wide on January 27 (ebook, print and audio). Story Structure will be available in print in February, Cold Moon shortly after that, and then the German translation of Huntress Moon, from Amazon Crossing. And a paranormal I wrote three years ago is finally scheduled for the fall. A veritable flood of books!

And I’ll be able to get back to the new book, with Book 4 in the Huntress series waiting really noisily in the wings for its turn.

But the fact is I could have finished one of those other books this year. It’s not only the external chaos that prevented that, although it definitely didn’t help. I’ve also been deeply torn about which book I should be writing next. Which book would be better to release next is a real issue. Which of the TWO books I’ve outlined for the Huntress series I should actually put out first (a chronological Book 4 or a prequel focusing on Cara) is another compounding factor.

So my first priority in the new year is re-launching the Huntress series, but the second is 
connecting with both my subconscious and the Universe (well, maybe there's no difference…) and getting clear about which book I should be finishing next.

As clear as writing ever is, anyway!

Full list of my 2015 intentions to come next, but for now, it’s back to work.

So how was your 2014?

Wishing everyone the most magical year ever!

     -  Alex






Sunday, December 28, 2014

THE UNSEEN on sale, 99 cents for Kindle!

For everyone who got Kindles for Christmas, or anyone who's planning to read in bed until the New Year, my parapsychology thriller The Unseen is on sale this week for just 99 cents for Kindle.  So if you're looking for a cheap thrill.... :)

The Unseen is fiction, but there's a lot of reality woven in, in history and location.

I have a posse of mystery writer friends (I should say goddesses!): Margaret Maron, Sarah Shaber, Diane Chamberlain, Katy Munger, Mary Kay Andrews and Brynn Bonner.  Several times a year we go on retreat to the beach or the mountains or some generally fantastic place. We work all day long by ourselves and then convene at night to drink wine and brainstorm on any problem that any one of us is having (and of course, compare page counts!).

And one of our favorite retreats is the Artist in Residence program at the Weymouth Center in Southern Pines, NC.  

Weymouth is an amazing place – a 9000 sq. foot mansion on 1200 acres (including several formal gardens and a 9-hole golf course) that’s really three houses melded together. It was what they called a “Yankee Playtime Plantation” in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the fox hunting lodge of coal magnate James Boyd.  James Boyd’s grandson James rebelled against the family business to become - what else? - a novelist. Boyd wrote historical novels, and his editor was the great Maxwell Perkins (“Editor of Genius”), and in the 1920’s and 30’s Weymouth became a Southern party venue for the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson, and Thomas Wolfe. That literary aura pervades the house, especially the library, with all its photos and portraits of the writers who have stayed at the house.
It’s a fantastic place to write – pages just fly.  

It's also notoriously haunted.

When you write ghost stories, PLACE is hugely important - it's got to be absolutely a character in the book, just as much as the human characters are.  
And The Unseen  is a haunted house story – two psychology professors take a group of psychically gifted students into a house with a history of poltergeist manifestations, to replicate a controversial experiment from the 1960’s.  I was inspired by the real-life, world famous ESP testing and poltergeist investigations that took place at the Duke University parapsychology lab, headed by Dr. J.B. Rhine.



Zenercards

You probably recognize those cards, which were used in laboratory tests to determine through statistical analysis whether ESP really occurs.   Two test subjects would sit at a table divided by a screen, and one subject, the sender, would flip through a deck of 25 cards, concentrating on one card at a time, while the receiver would write down her or his guesses about what that card was.
Pure chance is 20% right, so any score significantly above chance was considered to be an indicator of some psychic ability.   And if you want to try it for yourself, here's an online version of the test! 
As the daughter of scientists, I was always completely fascinated by the idea of testing something as spooky cool as ESP in a laboratory setting.   But what really hooked me about the history of the Rhine lab was that in the sixties, the researchers started doing field research of haunted houses and poltergeists.  
Poltergeists!
I know what a ghost is, kind of, but a poltergeist is such an elusive - creature.   Is it the random sexual energy of an adolescent gone wild?    Is it a particularly noisy and mischievous ghost?   Is it an otherworldly entity?   Or is it just a teenager faking spooky effects for attention?
The mystery of it has always fascinated me.  
Now, I truly believe that when you commit to a story, the universe opens up all kinds of fantastic opportunities to you.   And I started writing THE UNSEEN at the same time that our group had its first trip to Weymouth. In fact, we came down to the house on the very day that my characters were moving into THEIR haunted house.
(I’m telling you, writing is a little scary.  More than a little scary, in this case…)
Some of us had some truly spooky encounters in that place.   Every time I turned around there was knocking on the walls (the pipes in the kitchen), weird manifestations (a ghostly team of horses trotting by with a buggy on the road outside) and rooms that were just too creepy to go into after dark.  One night I had to go all the way back upstairs, across the upstairs hall and around to the front stairs to get to a room I wanted to go to because I was too freaked out to cross the Great Room in the dark.   And another one of us had the classic “Night Hag” visitation:  she woke up feeling that someone or something was sitting on her chest.  Brrrrr…..
One prevalent theory of hauntings is that a haunting is an imprint of a violent or strong emotion that lingers in a place like an echo or recording.   I’ve always liked that explanation.
Well, this house was imprinted, all right, but far beyond what I had expected.
Because besides the requisite spooky things… that house was downright sexy.  There’s no other way to say it.   Seriously - hot.
I had ridiculously, I mean – embarrassingly -  erotic dreams every night.  There were rooms I walked into that made my knees go completely weak.   The house, the gardens, even the golf course, just vibrated with sex.
Now, maybe that was just the imprint of creativity – the whole mansion is constantly inhabited by writers and musicians, and as we all know, creativity is a turn-on.
But also, consider the history.   As I said – Weymouth was a “Yankee Playtime Plantation”.   Rich people used that house specifically to party - in the Roaring Twenties, no less.   (Think THE GREAT GATSBY!).   God only knows how many trysts, even orgies, went on.   So could sex imprint on a place, just as violence or trauma is supposed to be able to imprint?
It makes sense to me.
That sexual dynamic surprised the hell out of me, but it completely worked with my main character’s back story - she’s a young California psychology professor who impulsively flees to North Carolina after she catches her fiancĂ© cheating on her.  (Actually, she dreams her fiancĂ© is cheating on her, in exactly the scenario that she catches him in later.)    So her wound is a specifically sexual one, and one of her great weaknesses is that she’s vulnerable to being sexually manipulated.  
Add to that that the most prevalent explanation of a poltergeist is that it’s hormones run amok:  that the projected sexual energy of an adolescent or young adult can randomly cause objects to move or break.
So of course I went with it.   It wasn’t anything to do with my outline, but California girl that I am, how can I not go with the obvious flow?
I think it adds a great dimension to the story, in a way I never could have anticipated, and I’m pleased to have been true to the - um, spirit - of poltergeists.
So first, I’m always interested in hearing your ghost and psychic experiences.  Come on, I know you have them.  And then of course, there's the "How far will you go to research?" question!  Do you all take this to the same extremes I do?