Long and Short Reviews welcomes Devon Ellington, whose book Hex Breaker has been re-released, in a bigger and better edition, from Solstice Publishing. It's the first of the Jain Lazarus Adventures, an urban fantasy, seven-book series.
The whole series has been outlined—the first book is out. Old-Fashioned Detective Work, the second book, is under contract. Devon is almost finished with Crave the Hunt, the third book which is told mostly from Billy's POV. She's also working on a romantic suspense that is due to be released this summer as well as teaching a year-long novel-writing class. For the class, she's writing as well as her students and she's working on an urban fantasy trilogy for that—the first book is in edits, the second is in progress, and the third has been outlined.
"I’ve got short stories going all the time, including several longish short stories, paranormal mysteries, featuring a horse-playing tarot reader, and another novella about a professional mourner," she said. "I’m collaborating with a writing partner on a very politically-charged script called THE NEMESIS PROJECT that will be filmed in segments this fall. There’s a lot on my plate, but that’s the way I like it."
Devon publishes under six different names, across a wide array of genres. She loves paranormal, saying, "I think you can reflect so much of the good and bad in society through the fears of the preternatural."
She also loves mystery, adventure, western, historical, fantasy…and loves that there's ore cross-genre work done lately which mixes the best of all the genres.
"Right now, I’m stretching a little more into harder sci-fi and into steampunk," she told me.
It's the possibilities inherent in science fiction and fantasy that intrigues Devon.
"We keep being taught to think of the world as finite -- that’s what special interests want us to do, why they lobby to gut education funding, so the population is less educated and easier to control," she explained. "Fantasy and science fiction deals with those who make their worlds better because they REFUSE to conform. That’s so important, especially now, with the climate swinging back towards intolerance."
She thinks that sci-fi is just going to get more and more vibrant as technology, space travel, and other things evolve. A lot of the ideas that previous generations of sci-fi writers looked at as "maybe someday" have already happened, so the next generation is looking ahead farther.
"Something will always break new ground, and a lot of others will copy it and try to cash in; then someone else breaks new ground, and so on and so forth," she said.
"Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?" I wondered."If so, what do you do?"
"Writer’s block is the luxury of the un-or-under-published. If I don’t write, I don’t eat, I can’t pay the bills, I can’t keep a roof over my family’s head. Writer’s block is not an option. I push through. I hack at it from all angles until it works. If I take a break and walk away to do something different, it’s a solution mechanism, not an avoidance one, and when I return, I get it done."
One of the most important elements of good writing, for Devon, is precision of language.
"Don’t tell me someone 'sort of felt' something. I want to FEEL that emotion. Don’t name-drop fashion trends (unless you’re being paid by the brand to include them) and call it specifics. Give me specifics. Layer in sensory description. Present it in a strong point of view -- I want to live the story through the characters, forgetting I’m reading. And, for crying out loud, do NOT expect me to read a novel in the present tense. Nothing is more distracting and frustrating for me. Some short stories can sustain use of present tense, but very, very, VERY few novels can."
Devon blogs five days a week about the writing life on Ink in My Coffee.
"The readers like to read about the process of the book, and then the finished book. I don’t post excerpts of WIP -- why would I post something less than my best work AND blow first publication rights? But I do write about how I write -- the process, the ups, the downs, the good days, the bad days. And, in this series, Billy Root, a supporting character, has such a solid fan base he’s got his own blog, every Monday, Billy Root Blogs. It’s enormous fun to write in his voice. With my romantic suspense novel, ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT (as Annabel Aidan), readers were excited to see what really goes on backstage during a Broadway show. People in the biz were happy to see it properly portrayed, and people out of it found it interesting. HEX BREAKER takes place on the set of an independent film, so some of the same crowd will see the difference between working on Broadway and on a film. Generally, we don’t have zombies on a film, although, after those long days, we sometimes FEEL like zombies!" she told me with a wink. "Readers like the chance to glimpse lives in professions different from their own, professions where the individual is committed to the career as well as the book’s plot. I get so annoyed when I read a book that supposedly has a professional person as the protagonist, but that person never actually DOES anything that has anything to do with the profession. Ick. Cross that one off my list! Sometimes I worry my characters are too in love with what they do, but it feeds into the stakes of their respective plots. I spent over 20 years working backstage on Broadway and in film and television, so I know what I’m talking about. As a reader, I want to be completely immersed in the specifics of the characters’ world."
Devon, as you can tell, is usually juggling several projects so plotting is crucial to her.
"By thinking them through and doing a writer’s rough outline, I can move smoothly from project to project as needed. I can’t keep all the information in my head. And I find, since I’ve got several multi-book projects going, that having dedicated Series Bibles is a must. Otherwise, no one would ever have the right color eyes or take their coffee the same way from book to book! Those discrepancies drive me nuts as a reader, so I try to be careful as a writer. I don’t find that outlines limit me -- they’re a roadmap, not a prison. I can still go off on any tangent that interests me and sort it out in the edits."
Finally, I asked Devon, "What advice would you give to a new writer starting out?"
"Write every day. EVERY DAY. I write my first 1K of the day early in the morning, before I’m 'tainted by the day'. Ebb-and-flow writing doesn’t help you reach your goals. Steady work -- showing up at the page every day, especially on the days you don’t want to - -that does. A thousand words a day is only four pages. It takes about an hour, hour and a half once you get into the daily rhythm. Pages stack up pretty quickly when you show up every day. And the edit is where you really 'make' the book. You draft to find out what you’re writing about; you edit to shape it, mold it, make it sing. Editing -- and cutting -- are wonderful. Nothing you write is EVER wasted. Everything -- especially what you cut -- is important to get the book where it needs to be. There is no such thing as 'no time to write.' You either write or you don’t write. The books won’t write themselves. Stop whining, put butt in chair, and write the darned thing."
About the Author: Devon Ellington is a full-time writer who publishes under a half a dozen names in fiction and non-fiction. Her plays are produced in New York, London, Edinburgh, and Australia. Her work appears in anthologies including PERFECTLY PLUM! ARDEUR, GHOST STORIES OF THE MOGOLLON RIM, and FULL CIRCLE. Within the hundreds of articles published over the years, she covered the Triple Crown for twelve years for FEMME FAN, and articles appeared in WOW- WOMEN ON WRITING, THE CRAFTY TRAVELER, SAVVY GAL, VISION, and HAMPTON FAMILY LIFE. She wrote four serials in four genres under two different names for eighteen months. She works as a fiction reviewer, freelance business writer, and teacher online and in-person, with students all over the world.
Find Devon online at:
Jain Lazarus Site: http://hexbreaker.devonellingtonwork.com
Blog: Ink in My Coffee
Billy Root’s blog: http://billyrootblogs.wordpress.com (Note: Billy is a supporting character in the series, and a fan favorite)
A Jain Lazarus Adventure
Hex Breaker Jain Lazarus joins the crew of a cursed film, hoping to put to rest what was stirred up before more people die and the film is lost.
Tough, practical Detective Wyatt East becomes her unlikely ally and lover on an adventure fighting zombies, ceremonial magicians, the town wife-beater, the messenger of the gods, and their own past.