Showing posts from December, 2013

Snowbound, a novellette, is Now Available

Novelette is such a strange word. Too long to be a short story, to short to be a novella, it sounds like the name of a character in some quaint French novel that might have been popular in 1897, but nobody remembers now.


Now's your chance to get in on the ground floor of the JA Ellis train. Mixed metaphors aside, I have just published my first anything, and I'm kind of excited about it. I'd be even more excited if someone bought it, (hint, hint).

The storm of the century is beginning, and Charlotte is ready to wait it out by herself. But once the snow starts falling, and the lights go out, she begins to realize she's not alone. Strange creatures are prowling around her house, and as the snow piles up, Charlotte must find a way out, before they find a way in.

Snowbound is now available for download at Amazon and Smashwords for $.99. I hope you enjoy it.

Cephalopod Coffee House: The Shining and Doctor Sleep

Welcome to the Cephalopod Coffee House for December. The point of this meet up is to write about the best book you've read in the past month.
This month I'm going to cover both Doctor Sleep and The Shining, by Stephen King. Full disclosure: I actually finished Doctor Sleep at the end of November, but while I was reading The Shining I thought, This is a perfect example of how a writer grows and changes over time. Let me try to be ambitious and cover both. I'm still very new to trying to write quality book reviews, so please bear with me.
You may also be wondering why I read Doctor Sleep before The Shining. That's my library's fault. I wanted to read The Shining first, but there was only one copy in the system (it's not a big library system) and I had to go on a waiting list for both books. Surprisingly, Doctor Sleep came in first. Ok, with that bit of background sorted out, let's begin.

The Shining is a story ingrained into the American consciousness, on the level with Star Wars and Jesus. Even if you have never read the book, or seen the movie, you know Darth Vader is Luke's father, and Jesus comes back. In the case of The Shining (King's third published novel) you know it's about a family trapped in a haunted hotel. The kid's creepy, the dad's an alcoholic writer, and the mom is Shelley Duvall.* The dad goes crazy, tries to kill the wife and son. You've got the gist of the story.

Doctor Sleep is King's - I don't know, 50th? novel - published 36 years after The Shining. It's a "sequel" in that it features Danny Torrance, all grown up, and at some point he returns to the original location of the Overlook Hotel. Dan Torrance grows up to be an alcoholic, just like good old dad, and the book starts with him hitting rock bottom. Once he has gone as low as he can go, he sobers up, gets a job at a hospice, and earns the nickname Doctor Sleep, because of the rumored way he helps the terminally ill residents move on. He connects with a young girl named Abra Stone, who also has the shining, but she's much more powerful than he ever was. Abra's being hunted by a group of supernatural beings called The True Knot, who live off of the psychic essence of people with the shining. Dan and Abra join forces to fight The True Knot, and in the process, Dan learns to reconcile the years of pain, hate, and fear he felt for his father and the Overlook.
Reading Doctor Sleep first, then The Shining, I was struck by the difference in writing styles. The Shining is a true, good old fashioned horror story. The creeping evil of the Overlook Hotel, and Jack Torrance's slow descent in to madness is woven into every paragraph of the book. There isn't one instant while you're reading when you don't think, "This is not going to end well". King is also much more succinct in his earlier books; the copy I read was 447 pages, while the sequel was 531 (which for any of you familiar with Stephen King's work is still pretty short). From the supposedly dead wasps, to the thing in room 217, to Jack Torrance hunting down his family, I was completely enthralled by the horror. Doctor Sleep, meanwhile, while a good book, wasn't very scary. It was interesting, and  a page turner, and I read it in three days, but I was never afraid that things wouldn't turn out ok for Dan and Abra in the end. The horror just wasn't there. I had bad dreams after reading The Shining. My subconscious apparently completely dismissed Doctor Sleep.
I wondered if the difference was because I "knew" that The Shining is supposed to be scary, whereas I didn't have any preconceived notions going into Doctor Sleep. I spent a while thinking about it, and I came to the conclusion that The Shining is just better at hitting all the right freaky buttons. The only time I was even vaguely creeped out during Doctor Sleep was when a young Dan Torrance (post Shining) finds the thing from room 217 oozing around his own bathroom. I am not saying that the later book isn't any good, but it is a completely different novel from its predecessor.
In his afterward for Doctor Sleep - his note to the Constant Reader, which I always look forward to (no skipping ahead) -  King notes that The Shining and Doctor Sleep are two very different books. In addition to the 35+ years between publishing dates, and the obvious changes a person goes through in that time, The Shining was written by a "well meaning alcoholic", while its sequel was written by someone who's been sober for a long time. With that in mind, you get the feeling (as it is with so many of his earlier novels) that The Shining is a tiny peek into the author's mind, his own very self-aware observations of how addiction can destroy a man and his family, while with Doctor Sleep you have none of that pathos. I suppose that's why I didn't find it so scary.
In summation - if you've made it this far - I would say that The Shining is the superior of the two novels. BUT Doctor Sleep is no slouch either, and is a great read for any fan or even non-fan. It would just go over better if you don't have the first book in mind.
All right, I'm done. Stop on by to visit some of the others in the coffee house to see what they've been reading:

*I am in complete agreement with Stephen King regarding the difference between his character Wendy Torrance and her portrayal in the Kubrick movie. Hell, his whole criticism in the linked video rings true to me.

A Bunch of Random Musings.

I've been unemployed for eleven days now. Each day is much like the last. I look for a job, (I'm not finding much in my "field" that pays enough to cover my bills, or even amount to more than I'll make on unemployment). I spend about an hour and a half each day writing (every morning after the kid gets on the bus instead of going back to bed). I've watched a lot of Netflix and Hulu. Not reading as much as I should be.

The Mega Millions jackpot is up to $550,000,000 this week. It looks a bit daunting with all those zeros. I have my single ticket that will be a waste of a dollar. How about all of you? I've been thinking about the kind of things I would do with that kind of money. Aside from investing, paying bills, fancy house, trust funds, taking care of family, charity, travel - you know all the boring crap everyone says they'll do if they ever won the lottery. Aside from that, what would you do? Me, I'd buy a bunch of custom made ball gowns, the kind that require a lot foundation garments, and only ever appear in Disney cartoons. I would wear them around the house while I go about my mundane life.

Has anyone seen Rare Imports? It's a delightfully dark Christmas movie from Finland. You should watch it. Now. I'll wait for you to come back. It's not like I have to be anywhere anytime soon.

I've also watched Love Actually twice this past week. Really, this movie is terrible. I understand this, and I usually don't go for rom-coms, but there's something about it that gets me. It might be the British accents. I'll watch anything with a British accent. And yes I know there are like a zillion different accents in Great Britain, but part of the fun for me is to try to guess what kind of accent it is. Does it sound like the Ninth Doctor? The Tenth Doctor? Anna from Downton Abbey? Lady Mary from Downton Abbey?

Anyway, back to Love Actually, someone made a "trailer" for Love Actually 2. I would watch that movie so hard.

 I suppose, if I'm going to be posting videos today, I'll also have to show you Commander Riker sitting down in a weird way, over and over again:

...and a gif of a cat walking on an underwater treadmill:

Indie Life

Last night I got my MS back from the editor, four days early. I had only signed on for a copy edit, but she also gave me a couple of notes on content, which I'm grateful for. Overall, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I expected more of a blood bath. Mostly, I should stop automatically hitting "change" on the spell check, I shouldn't be so afraid of a little exposition, and I shouldn't over think wording too much. If it sounds right, it probably is. And if it isn't, well that's what editors are for.

Anyway, aside from the edits, I'm still trying to swing cover art on a limited budget. I want to publish in both ebook format and on CreateSpace, but having a print cover custom made can get expensive. I'm still researching options, but I'm really shooting for a March 1st publishing date, so I have to start making decisions soon.

And aside from the actual book, I also need to start really thinking about my marketing plan. I know the number one driver of sales is to have more than one book out, but it's my first (I promise, I'm working on a second), and I just want to get started on the right foot here. There are so many things I need to get set up in the next month or so, I'm just procrastinating at this point.

I have a question for anyone still reading: I've seen a lot of people doing giveaways either through their blog/website or Good Reads. Have any of you done that, and if so, how successful was it? What about blog tours?

Enough about me, how is everyone else doing?

Insecure Writers Support Group

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
 Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time. Click HERE for the full list of blogs.

Last week I sent a my novel off to an editor for copy edits. In about two weeks I'll get it back coated in red, or whatever color she chooses to use for her comments. I had a sample edits done with a couple of prospects before deciding on this editor, and she was the only one who did anything other than highlight random punctuation and spelling errors. I'm excited to see what comes back to me, but not very excited to go through and fix all of those errors.

In the meantime, as I move closer to my goal of self publishing next year, I've started worrying about how Weaver will be received by the public. I've had it critiqued and beta'd and I've read it several times myself. I tried so hard to keep it from slowing down too much in the middle, and make the ending make sense. I debated the usefulness of a tertiary character and decided I liked him too much to get rid of him. Some people might think the ending is a little bit of a downer, but it was how it had to end. But what I like, will anyone else like it?

I might have said it before, I don't remember and I really don't feel like checking it out now, that I don't expect to get rich off of writing. I don't expect to be able to quit my day job (if I had a day job to quit, considering this is my last day of work - in case you missed my post last month I was laid off), and to be honest, I don't think I'd make enough to buy dinner at Red Lobster. At this point, I just want people to honestly like it.

Oh, Jennifer, I hear you saying. You'll get those cheddar bay biscuits at Red Lobster. You might even be able to get the Shrimp Trio. Well, hypothetical readers and commenters, I have convinced myself to set the bar reeeaaally low. If I can get one person to pay hard earned cash for my novel, and like it enough to give me 3 stars on Amazon I'll be a happy camper.

Also, that person can't be my mother. Hi Mom.

So, that's my insecurity and misguided attempt at dealing with it. How's it going with all of you?