Urban Fantasy Novel Caged by JP Robinson

Posted on October 20, 2016. Filed under: Books, writing | Tags: , , , , , |

I have been busy finishing and publishing my first novel, Caged.  I’m so excited it’s finally here and available for purchase.

Caged, by JP Robinson

Caged is an urban fantasy set in modern day Northern Virginia.  I describe it as “X-Files” meets “Die Hard.”

Or, for a slightly longer description, there’s this:

A scientist and the federal agent who is hoping to keep her alive are trapped in a building with a horde of hungry vampires. It wouldn’t be that unusual of a night, if it weren’t for the zombies.

I have been busy with writing the book, publishing the book, promoting the book and working on the sequel. I have sadly neglected this blog. However, I have, as part of promoting my urban fantasy trilogy, launched a new website and a new blog. If you’d like to follow the journey of Caged, and the V to Z Trilogy, you can find me at JPRobinsonWriter.com.  I hope to see you there, at book signings, and, as always, at my storytelling shows.

 

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Published Writing

Posted on April 9, 2015. Filed under: storytelling, writing | Tags: , , , , , , |

My short story, “What Are the Odds,” was published in the March 2015 edition of the Northern Virginia Review.  Read all about it or purchase a copy here.

The publication had a nice author reception, with a few readings and some free copies of the issue. It was fun to be around other creative writers for the afternoon.  And, I must admit, it felt good to see my name printed in a thick magazine with a bunch of other authors.  Usually, when I see my name in lights (yes, the issue came with built-in LEDs) it’s beside other storytellers announcing an upcoming storytelling show. I am proud of all of those shows, but my heart did an extra leap or two at seeing my story published, like, in print.  I’ll have to try it again sometime.

The short nonfiction piece was an adaptation of a spoken word story I told for Better Said Than Done. I have performed over thirty original, true, personal stories at this point in my storytelling career. I don’t write all of the stories out. In fact, as I have gotten more comfortable with the true, personal storytelling format, I rarely write my stories out anymore. Luckily, “What Are the Odds” was one story I had felt needed to be worked through on a computer, since it made use of percentages as a motif, and I am not great with numbers. The fact that it was already in written form made it an obvious choice for a story to submit for publication.

I did rewrite it a bit before submitting it for consideration. It is much easier to adapt a performed story I have written out to the page than to adapt one I have created entirely in my head, not only because it saves me from having to type it out, but also because the way purely spoken stories are formed.  Stories sound more like conversation when you “write” them in your head and through speaking aloud, which is great, if the goal is to perform them. If the goal is to get a story published, the additional work in translating one amounts to basically writing the whole story – other than the structure – from scratch.  The way we read is different from the way we listen. Therefore, the way I write for a listener is different than the way I write for a reader.

That being said, “What Are the Odds” is the second story I have had published that stemmed from a story I first performed. I’m thinking I have about 28 other stories I should see about whipping into shape for publication. I think I’ll start with the ones that are already written out.

 

 

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Storytelling on the Fly

Posted on October 9, 2014. Filed under: storytelling, writing | Tags: , , , , |

I hosted and performed in two storytelling shows in September, the second one approximately ten days after the first one. In addition, my company, Better Said Than Done, (aka me) put together and promoted the shows, so it was a busy two weeks for me. That is, of course, in addition to working a real job and taking care of a toddler.

Why, you might ask, should we care? Well, all that is by way of saying, I never really had the chance to write the second story out. When I perform in a storytelling show, I have one of two ways of preparing. The one I do most often is to write out my story, read it out loud, edit it, read it out loud, edit it, and eventually memorize it through repetition. That process allows me to really perfect the story.

But for this performance, I went with option two – saying the story out loud to myself, thinking about what worked and what didn’t, and speaking it a few more times, trying to work it out in my mind before the show. This method has a couple of advantages. Firstly, there’s a lot less preparation. Since it’s not word for word memorization, and since there is no time spent writing things down, it takes up less than half the time as the first method. Also, it does create a more conversational sounding performance, more like I am just telling you a story rather than performing something scripted.
Here’s the story I told a week or so ago about my little bear:

The downside of method two is that it isn’t “perfect.” When I do write out and memorize word for word, there are no “ums” in my story. I do not repeat the same word several times or fumble around for a good way of phrasing something. I can play word games with how something is stated exactly early on in the story and how it is stated slightly differently later in the story. It gives you more options as a writer, or crafter of a story, if you write it all out.

By contrast, here’s a story about my little bear that I wrote out and memorized word for word:

With writing and memorizing word for word, you can sound a bit over prepared. Also, it is much easier to lose your place and much harder to cover it up if you do. When every word is perfect, having a few words not perfect really stands out.

There are good and bad qualities to both methods of preparing for a storytelling show. The good news is, our October storytelling show is improvisational storytelling – so there is absolutely no preparation of any kind! Hope to see you there.

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Me and Neil Gaiman

Posted on September 29, 2014. Filed under: writing | Tags: , , , |

Bet that got your attention! Here’s more, just to keep you interested.

Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean

Though I look exactly the same, you may have guessed from Neil Gaiman’s hair that this photo was taken a few years ago.  The other gentleman in the photo is Dave McKean. This was taken while they were on a comic book signing tour, back before one had to wait 7 hours in line for Mr. Gaiman’s autograph, which is why they were so accommodating as to allow for photos. (Both really, really nice guys, btw)

Okay, so why am I talking about Neil Gaiman – oh, let’s just call it – five years after meeting him? I recently had an experience that brought me one step closer to him or, more particularly, to his literary agent.  I told a story about it at the George Mason University Fall for the Book Festival during the Better Said Than Done night of storytelling.

Here’s the video.

 

 

Hope you enjoyed my true story. If nothing else, retelling the tale has inspired me to work harder!

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Live Show in Northern Virginia for Writers

Posted on September 15, 2014. Filed under: storytelling, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

It occurred to me that I should do a little more promoting on this site for Thursday night’s storytelling show. You see, the show is part of George Mason University’s Fall for the Book Festival – a festival devoted to writers, and readers.  And the show, titled “Reading, Writing and Art,” features true, personal stories of what it means to be a writer, or an artist, or a fan.

fall for the book

My story deals specifically with the struggles of writing a novel and trying to find a literary agent.  Hopefully it will come across as filled with more humor than struggle, so let’s just say it’s about the journey.

Reading, Writing and Art: stories about the people, process and performance of art
September 18th, 2014
7:00PM (Doors Open 6:00PM)
The Auld Shebeen
3971 Chain Bridge Rd.
Fairfax, VA 22030
Free Show as Part of George Mason University’s “Fall for the Book Festival”
Please note – delicious food and drinks (full menu) available for purchase
Hosted by Jessica Piscitelli Robinson, the evening features storytellers Richard Barr, Ann Cavazos Chen, David Supley Foxworth, Karen Lee, Pierce McManus, Miriam Nadel, and Ellouise Schoettler—promising true and unforgettable tales.
More Info Here

I hope to see some fellow writers or readers in the audience. We can all commiserate.

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Pulitzer Prize Winning Novel

Posted on August 13, 2014. Filed under: Books, writing | Tags: , , , |

Nope, not mine. Not yet, anyway. 🙂 Actually, I am pretty sure the only prize my first completed novel will win will be something like the “Best Beach Read of 2015,” or “Best novel to turn into an awesome summer movie!” I would be pretty happy with either of those.

But while seeking out representation – yes, still looking for a literary agent (apparently they don’t respond overnight) – and continuing to work on the sequel to my first novel, I have been reading a lot of other books.

Now, I don’t like to say bad things about books, in general, because I know how hard it is to write a book. And, having never had a novel published, I don’t exactly have the right to speak ill of other people’s successful careers. So I am going to try to say this without sounding like a horrible person – I don’t understand why The Goldfinch won the Pulitzer. I recently finished reading it and I really don’t get it. I liked the first half of the book. I cared about the main character. My heart broke for him. I thought the writing was amazing. And then it took a turn down an unbelievable alley and my sympathy for the main character disappeared along the way and I found it really hard to force myself to get to the end of the book when I just wasn’t buying it.

But it won the Pulitzer! I mean, it has to be great, right? Okay, okay, so there’s at least one other book that has won in the last decade that I don’t think deserved it, but mostly I have loved many of the books on the list. Mostly, I think they have chosen well. Which is why I have such a problem with this one. I keep thinking, what am I not getting? Is it because I have gotten old and my brain is too small to understand the genius of the book? Or maybe it’s because my life has had so many disasters in it now that I have survived this long, that I just prefer happier books?

I don’t know. So, here’s my question. Is it just me? Have I lost my reading taste buds? Or is it that maybe, just maybe, the Pulitzer Prize is not always given to the most fantastic book?

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Done!

Posted on May 7, 2014. Filed under: Books, writing | Tags: , , , , , |

Novel Writing

I did it! I am done. I typed “the end,” and I meant it!

Yeah, so, like, three weeks ago, I finished writing my very first novel. Phew! It’s about time, too. Two and a half years of work – done! It feels great. Not quite like giving birth (having done that recently too, I should know), but kind of like creating a new life.

I have been keeping very busy since completing the novel. First of all, lots of getting back to my day job (I kind of crammed the completion of this book once the end was in sight). But I have also revised the entire book, after sending it to a few trusted readers for comments and critique.

While writing this novel, I realized I was writing the first book of a trilogy, so now I have two more books to write. Big sigh! But having finished one, I know I can write the next two.

There were a lot of things I figured out along the way. The good news is, I have a really clear idea of what I want the second and third book to be about, what the main plots points are, and who the main characters are. I had to work through a lot of that for the first book. My hope is that the next two will take no more than a year each.

In the meantime, I have sent a query letter off to a literary agency. It’s a bit ballsy, but I would like to have an agent represent my first book while I work on the next two. Seems like a good plan to me. So, you know, if you are an awesome literary agent looking for a great speculative fiction trilogy, let me know and I swear you will love my query letter!

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Not so much an ending…

Posted on March 17, 2014. Filed under: storytelling | Tags: , , , , , |

A while back I posted about how the end was nigh – meaning the end of my writing career as I knew it. I was referring to the fact that I was about to have a baby. While it is true that all of my free time, and most of my quality sleep time, have vanished, all is not lost.

I was afraid for my writing career on two fronts. First, the lack of time. And yeah, that part I am still trying to work out. Secondly, that I would become one of those people who could only talk about their kids and that there’d be no more creative storytelling. I mean, seriously, you can only tell so many “my kid is a genius” stories before people start to get bored.
baby stories
Happily, I believe, I have not completely dried up on original storytelling. Of course, my novel is pure fiction and has very little, if anything, to do with babies. Then, I just told a true, personal story for Better Said Than Done a few nights ago that also had nothing to do with babies, or at least, actual babies. (It was about a guy I dated who was a child in his own right, but old enough to feed himself and not need diapers.) So, it seems, I can keep mining those classic life events.
But I have told two baby stories, I must confess. My hope is that I have found ways to make potentially stale, overused, material seem fresh.

My first post baby, baby story was actually about breastfeeding, and how it doesn’t quite stand up to all the wonderful descriptions of it they sell you in the baby books. My follow up story was about my pregnancy, and how that was a bit of a nightmare for me, in what I am pretty sure was an unique experience. Both stories went over very well with the live audiences, and have been viewed quite a bit online. (At least as compared to my other stories)

Maybe telling stories about a huge, life changing experience that happens to be shared by a lot of people isn’t the worst thing you could do.  Maybe I’ll even tell a few more.  In fact, I have been working on this great one about how my baby is a genius!

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Reality TV Spoiler Alert

Posted on January 22, 2014. Filed under: writing | Tags: , , , , , |

I am writing what I like to think of as an action/thriller and what people who have read my pages thus far like to refer to as a horror novel. I think it comes off as horror since I keep gruesomely killing off characters, wherein lies the problem.

Killing off a character reads a lot better if the reader cares when a character dies.  Since I want this book to be exciting, with thrills in each chapter, I have had to kill off some characters fairly early on.  What to do to make it so those characters did not die in vain? This is where reality TV comes in.

I enjoy competition shows like Top Chef and Project Runway. Unfortunately for me, I am rarely ever surprised at the end of the show when one chef or designer gets sent home. That’s because there is a formula, at least for the first 8 – 12 episodes of a season.

SPOILER ALERT: If you have not figured out the formula, do not read on. Seriously, this will ruin competition reality TV for you.

(more…)

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Rejected

Posted on January 14, 2014. Filed under: writing | Tags: , , , , |

I got rejected. It’s okay. I’ll live. I was once single so remember the feeling well.

This was the first submission I had done in a long time. I have been so wrapped up in my novel and in my storytelling shows, that I hadn’t spent much time on anything else.  A friend told me about this magazine that needed non fiction stories and, since I could use a slightly revised version of a short piece I had already written, I went for it.

Even though I didn’t get to see my name in print, it was honestly one of the nicest rejection letters I have ever received. Oddly, I am kind of encouraged by it.

Here’s what the nice editor at the magazine wrote:

“Dear Jessica,

Thank you so much for submitting “Daddy‘s Car” to The____ Review. The review board and I really appreciated the opportunity to read your story, and personally I found the ending very moving. After much deliberation, however, the board decided not to include it in the upcoming volume. But you are a talented writer, and I sincerely hope that you will consider submitting more of your work to future volumes of the review.

Warmest Regards,
Ruth”

I have submitted many stories to many magazines and have often received not a peep in response. It’s nice when an editor not only takes the time to write something (anything) personal, but says that she, at least, liked the piece.

Maybe I will try to submit some more shorts over the course of this year. You never know. There might be an editor out there even nicer than this one who will send me a very nice acceptance letter!

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