Apricots and Wolfsbane, Writing Tip

When Your Hobby Becomes A Job

Writing is my escape. Under a blanket with my laptop, I can go anywhere, be anyone. For countless nights, from behind my humble keyboard, I dreamed of publishing a book. And now that it’s happening, I’ve found my “hobby” is less relaxing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving every minute of this new adventure. Every time I get an e-mail from my publisher, a little part of me still stares at it in disbelief.

But suddenly I had the pressures of deadlines, the burden of being creative on the clock. My writing “to-do” list grew longer than my list of house chores. At times, my sudden second job became more stressful than my days at NASA. I often found myself calculating how many pages I needed to edit each night to make a deadline, staring at the clock – Did it really take me an hour to edit that one page?

My outlet for anxiety, my relaxation method, quickly became the source of my stress.

To cope, I learned to take breaks. To power off the laptop for a night and make progress on my to-be-read pile. To relax through other creative means: I edited family picture books and played around with video editing.

But through all the anxiety, I remembered to step back and take a breath. I’m publishing a book! And in 43 days! I want to savor every moment of this dream coming true, since I know it’s only for a fleeting moment.

At this point, there are no more editorial letters or notes to address. The cover is designed. In a few months, I know the requests for guest blogs will decline. Eventually it will just be me once again with my laptop, writing under a blanket, hoping I’ll be lucky enough to do this all again.

Apricots and Wolfsbane

50 Days Until Publication!

It is strange and exhilarating to watch a tale crafted out of the depths of my imagination come to life in tangible form.

The past months have been a whirlwind of revisions and authoring promotional/guest blogs for this fall. Last week, I completed a final round of manuscript edits considering comments from the beta reviews completed by all the Filles Vertes interns. (Thank you all again!) I’m thrilled my book caused so much thought and conversation. I wanted to write a book that made the reader think and it seems I met my goal!

Pre-publication reviews from published authors are also coming in (you can read them here) and I love the first glimpses into the thoughts of readers. I sincerely appreciate the time of the authors who have helped with this effort, and thank you for the beautiful reviews!

I’ve had a blast working with Kate Cowan of Broken Arrow Designs to create the cover and helping Filles Vertes Publishing with details for the inside layout design. I can’t wait to share the final cover and expect we’ll be announcing a reveal date soon!

50 days – it’s getting real, folks! I’m publishing a book!

Apricots and Wolfsbane

Dip Pens & Contracts!

How do you sign a publishing contract for historical fiction? With a dip pen of course!

I got my dip pen (featured above) two years ago at the Texas Renaissance Festival from Visker & Scrivener. They have a fantastic little shop in Galveston as well.

Signing the Contract

Reviewing contracts was an exciting but daunting experience. That communication law class required as part of my journalism degree finally came in handy! The professors said it would and now, I concede they were right.

I also found fantastic references with Google including recommendations, checklists and sample verbiage. Here are a few of my favorite resources:

Writers Digest – Publishing Contracts 101

The Authors Guild – Ten Book Contract Traps We Can Help You Avoid

Copy Law – A pretty good checklist of things to consider

 

Apricots and Wolfsbane

Apricots and Wolfsbane

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Synopsis of Apricots and Wolfsbane

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Lavinia Maud craves the moment the last wisps of life leave her victim’s bodies, to behold the effects of her own poison creations. Her morbid desires are balanced with faith since she believes confession erases the sin of murder, though she could never justify her skill to the magistrate she loves.

At the start of the 16th century in Tudor England, Lavinia’s marks grow from tavern drunks to nobility, but rising prestige brings increased risk. When the magistrate suspects her ruse, he pressures the priest into breaking her confessional seal, pitting Lavinia’s instincts as an assassin against the tenets of love and faith. She balances revenge against her struggle to develop a tasteless poison and avoid the wrath of her ruthless patron.

With her ideals in conflict, Lavinia must decide which will satisfy her heart: love, faith, or murder, but the betrayals are just beginning.

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Excerpt

The violent display of convulsions lasted longer than I anticipated.

With my boots propped on the table, I remember watching beads of wax roll down the candle, marking time between my victim’s spasms. The brothel room was sparse, and the bed in the corner remained undisturbed. I had assumed the role of temptress that evening, but delivered a different climax.

I savored the fear on my victim’s face as much as my own unlaced mead. The sweetness of both danced on my palate. His repulsive gagging, however, I endured with patience.

My target focused upon me. His hand shook, reaching out in a misplaced plea for aid. Instead, I raised my goblet in a final toast while he turned purple. He glanced towards his spilled glass, and then studied my face with new understanding. With his last remnants of life, he pieced together what I had done. Those little moments made the act so delicious. And as his body collapsed upon the floor, I added one more success to my mental tally.

Murder just never got old.

The scratching of my chair sliding across the uneven floor broke the sudden, serene silence of the room. Driven by curiosity, my boots echoed with each step towards my victim.

The man’s eyes contained a lingering remnant of vibrancy despite the departure of the soul they once served. White froth percolated from his open mouth, overflowing the orifice to trail down his neck. It was not an honorable death, but my client had paid for certainty, not dignity.

Curious, I examined the large ruby on the victim’s pointer finger which matched the client’s description — an ornate setting with a coat of arms on one side of the gem and a mare’s head on the opposite. The worked piece of silver did not seem important enough to procure my service, but as a professional, I had not asked for justification, only payment. Material significance so often motivated patrons to fill my coffers. I recognized the inherent sin, but I never judged a client’s reason. I was not qualified to cast the first stone.

I did admire my victim. After all, he was a fellow criminal. I believed his talents as a thief must have been remarkable to pilfer the ring unnoticed from the finger of its owner. I often boasted of my own sleight of hand, but admittedly, I could not accomplish such a feat. Though in my defense, assassin clearly trumped thief.

After donning the black leather gloves concealed within the lacings of my bodice, I returned to business. I pushed the tipped chair out of the way and pulled on the ring, but my motion abruptly halted.

Caught at the knuckle, the gem did not budge.

I stared at his limp hand, dumbfounded, before a flame of focus burst through my body. How I craved and savored that rush. That high, and the feeling of power, motivated my ghastly craft all those years. Despite the stress, I never lost control of my emotions on the job. No matter the circumstance, I learned to remain calm and reason through any dilemma. That night was no different.

Grabbing the corpse’s wrist in one hand, I pulled on the metal band with all my strength. Still, the damn ring did not move, even with my heel braced against his chest. But through the sound of my grunting, the unexpected scratching of a nearby rat interrupted my efforts.

The rodent stood tall on his hind legs, observing the entertainment outside his hole in the floorboard. What else could I do except laugh in amusement? There was something poetic about the meager creature being the singular witness to the growing farce, while beyond the chamber door, an entire brothel remained unaware.

But their ignorance would not last for long.

By God’s nails, I was not going to degrade myself to play tug of war with a corpse, nor disgrace my spit to serve as lubrication. I retrieved the dagger from my boot and sawed through the bone of the blasted digit. In contrast, his purse strings cut with ease and the contained sum gave me confidence the proprietor would retain his promised discretion. Eager to depart, I cleansed the ring with the pure decanter of mead and left the contaminated gloves on the table.

I threw the finger to the rat.