Category Archives: My Process

Vastly Overrated…

You know, it is funny how sometimes I have this overwhelming desire to have what is considered a “normal” life. You know the type. The white picket fence, husband, 2.5 kids. I’m sure that it works for some people and they are quite happy with it but for me, it doesn’t necessarily work.

I’m quirky and introverted. I’ve always been so. I don’t think that is something that I can change about myself and be happy really.  It is also the thing about me that most “normal people” don’t get.

Now,  I can pass for normal when I need to.  I can don the dress, put on the makeup, and carry on a conversation with the best of them. But, where am I truly in my element and happy?

At home, in my pajamas, with my dog and my laptop, writing away at my desk or the kitchen table. That’s the usual spot. Sometimes you’ll find me on the couch watching Netflix with an embroidery project or at the easel with my headphones on. But mostly, it is just doing what I am right now. Tapping away at the keys on my laptop.

I think it is important for everyone to figure out where they thrive. I know that I spent way too much time trying to fit in where I never really belonged in the first place. All for the sake of having that version of normal I mentioned before.

Embracing yourself as you are is important for many reasons. I might be a baker and decorator but I rarely like to do anything that is cookie cutter even if I am aiming for simplicity. I try to think outside the box and do things that will make me happy more often than I just go with the flow these days.

So ask yourself these questions. Answer them honestly because, well,  they matter to you.

  1. What makes you happy?
  2. What are you good at that you honestly enjoy?
  3. How much time do you spend of your week or day doing those things?
  4. What keeps you from doing them more?

I asked myself these same questions when I was just out of school and again recently as my life changed again. The answers evolved over the years. They were very different at the ending of my last attempt to be normal than I thought they would be. What I really learned from them was that I needed to find my bliss and stop reaching  for something that I wasn’t sure would make me happy and focus on the things that did.

Your normal is likely different from mine. The truth is, it is up to us, as individuals, to create our own version of normal for us. Going with the usual social norms, is akin to letting society tell you how you should live your life without question. And that, my friends, is vastly overrated. Take what resonates with you from it but add your quirks and your own flair to life. Wear the funky ties or the bright colors. Take your notebook with you wherever you go. Sketch in the park or set up an easel and paint. Dance or play your instrument on a busy corner for the fun of it. Speak up at an open mic night. Or whatever else you feel moved to do.

Whatever you do in your life. Just be you. We are all amazing in our own way. So, just as I sign my novels when I meet people, I say to you; Embrace your journey! Your story is in your own hands to write. So make it a good one!

Strange Research Happenings…

As a writer my life is full of research. Writing in the paranormal and supernatural genres doesn’t mean that we just make everything up by the seat of our pants. Believe it or not, there is a lot research and investigation that has been done in the paranormal field. (I know. I was part of that fringe group for many years and still occasionally partake of case work when I have the opportunity to consult etc.)

With that being said, one of my major projects is a series of shorter novels I’ve dubbed Armageddon Rising. The first book is out currently on Amazon.com. It deals with a protagonist who is a fallen angel and centers on end times prophecies. So there is a lot of research happening for me to carry on with the next book in that series. It is a very weighty topic to tackle even from the fiction angle.

Months ago I bought a book as part of that research. I put it on the shelf until I was ready to delve back into the topic and really didn’t think about it much after that. The other night, I was looking for something and it caught my eye. I thought I would go ahead and start reading it. Sure enough it is full of interesting and useful tidbits. I went to share those with family members who would find them equally as interesting and as we were talking about them my fingers randomly opened to part of the index. That’s when things got really strange.

In the second line of that page where I opened at random I find my legal last name.  Then on the opposite page, I find a close relative’s name. Crazy right? And I’m not talking about just a first or a last name. I mean the whole thing. Knowing this person as I do and the context of this site they are named on, I wonder if they’ve ever googled themselves. It was just a super strange way to end the day and start a weekend of my own work (as opposed to the day job).

This weekend will be busy. Working Saturdays is always a thing. At least it has been for the last two and a half years or so. But, after 2:00pm tomorrow, I can refocus my efforts on research, writing, and my own projects. I’m ready for that. It has been a long start to the month and a super busy day today. So this lady is ready for a bit of R and R.

My Top Tool For Creativity

When you get to know me, you’ll quickly realize that I am all over the place creatively. Yes, my primary focus is writing fiction. There are tons of other creative interests in my bag of tricks though.

For example: Did you know that I sing? Yep, I even recorded an album with a band. I also performed in musicals back in the day. I also decorate cakes and cookies with my mom. (Psst… If you’re in East Texas. We have a facebook page and take orders. So check us out here.) I am learning to draw and even paint using acrylics. I do embroidery or other sewing, usually by hand, when I watch television. And I’m slowly learning to play the violin. I could list a bunch of other things. My point, however, is that I try new things and do my best not to limit my options.

But what helps me do that? Is there some common thread in all of these things that I do?

The answer is that there is something I do on a daily basis that helps me keep it all together. I journal. I don’t mean sit down an type on the computer either. I use an actual book and I don’t limit it to words. Granted, my journals usually consist of a ton of words but, I also doodle and sometimes design pages so that they are a bit more visual. The point of it all is to put my thoughts down however they manifest.

Why?

Well, how many times have you thought of a great idea for something to do and you get sidetracked by some chore or errand? You do the required whatever it is. Then, you come back to your creative space to manifest your idea only to have forgotten what it was.

It happens to us all. Don’t worry. I can’t tell you how many great book ideas are lost to the ether because I failed to write them down early on. Carrying a notebook everywhere is second nature to me now.  You’ll rarely ever find me without a way to write something down when it pops in my mind.

Now, there are plenty of journaling resources out there. I won’t get into all of that. Some will tell you that you should only use a leather bound, lined, 80gsm paper, with an expensive fountain pen. And you should format the pages a certain way and all sorts of other nonsense. If those things suit you, go for it. But for someone who wants to keep things simple let me give you the basic break down of what you need.

Number One

A notebook. Any notebook will do. Pick one up at Walmart or Target. Back to school shopping is upon us so they are cheap to find. If you’re inspired by something fancy then, go for it and splurge. I do, however, suggest something you can carry with you. That doesn’t mean it has to be expensive. Walmart usually carries a half size notebook that easily fits in my purse or messenger bag. When on a budget, that’s a go to item on my list.

Number Two

A decent pen. Whether you prefer a felt tip like Papermate’s Flair Pens, Pilot V5s or G2, or Bic Crystal Sticks you can spend as little or as much as you like. I have all of the above along with a box of others. In fact, some of the best writing ball point pens were freebies from the bank.  But, I also have a fountain pen that I favor. It really just depends on my mood.

As for formatting? Throw all of those suggestions out the window at first. Just be creative with it. Do what you do. I generally freewrite for a while in my journal before I get started on any projects. It clears my head of the clutter and allows me to process things easier. So, start there and focus on getting the ideas out of your head and onto the pages. Think of it as a reference for later. If you feel like drawing or painting, go for it. If not, that’s okay too.

Some days may be nothing but complaining about life and the circumstances you find yourself in. That’s okay.

Some days you may find that you have a brilliant epiphany about what you want to do next in life, in a relationship, in your career, or in art. That’s okay too. In fact, those days are just amazing.

And sometimes, it will just be a mess. It will seem incoherent and disjointed. And that’s okay too.

Remember, no one reads this but you. Unless, of course, you allow them to. Then I would hope that it is someone you trust.

For any artist the journal is an essential. It is the catch all for ideas, fears, and even for celebrations. It is a sacred space with it’s own special sort of magic. The more you use it, the more of yourself you uncover. That includes hidden talents and desires for your life. I encourage everyone to try it.

In fact, give it a go and tell me about your experience with it in the comments.

Don’t forget that The Secret of the Storm is available over on Amazon. Click Here  It makes for an awesome summer break read and is available in ebook and print format.

Also, if you haven’t already, subscribe up at the top so you don’t miss a post.

If you want to know more about my journaling experience, feel free to leave questions or suggestions in the comments. Maybe a journal walk through could be a good starting video for a Youtube channel. What say you?

Holiday Mayhem

Nothing turns my day job into bedlam faster than a holiday at the first of the month in the middle of the week. Rarely is there a three day weekend with this current work situation. In fact, I think I remember one time where I had three days in a row and it was only because I ended up sick with the flu the day before the holiday. The first week of the month is always busy. Add in a holiday and you end up with a lot of confusion and aggravation. People just don’t do change well. That is a lesson in human behavior that I have learned well.

With that being said, the 4th of July was an epic day. I’d found a story that I wrote a while back when I changed bags for work. It is a little more horror but, it was really pretty good. I decided to revise it and put it out as a short novella for you. I will definitely let you know when it will be available. I’m just going to take some time to polish it up this weekend and ship it off to my beta readers. Then I’ll get all the other details together once I have my feedback.

I was amazed at my production time on the 4th though. I skipped getting online and doing the usual social media surfing. Instead, it was like old times. Me, the keyboard, and some music in the background. I think I tripled my word count for my best day in the past year. And yes, it was awesome!

It reminded me of why I enjoy writing so much. I get lost in my imagination when I do that well. It’s really like reality suspends itself for me and I’m really in my setting and talking to my characters. I think that’s why my early drafts are super dialogue heavy.  More than that, it was a rather blissful day with just me and the pup working away on what I wanted to. Those days are rare since I work a full time job. But, I’ll take them whenever I can get them.

Approaching my weekend, I want to see a similar amount of productivity. I know I have some errands to run but, my plan is to get those done after work tomorrow and then come home to work in the studio. Sunday is always a day for me to focus on my fiction. So I’m excited for that.

Another thing that I’m excited about is that I’m actually scheduling some posts so that things can be more regular here on the blog. My initial plan is to bring you posts twice a week. Posting starting next week on Wednesday and on Satuday.  I have a list of topics and ideas but, I would also love to incorporate what you really want to know. So, I have an open invitation for you to comment your questions. It can be about anything really. I’m not going to be very picky about sticking to a topic because the whole idea of this blog being a window into my creative world is pretty all-encompassing. So whether you have a writing question, a question about creativity in general, or something even more mundane don’t be shy.  Ask away.

The challenge for me is going to be finding images to use. I know blogs are pretty boring without them so, I’m off to look for resources for free images.

Writer Issues…

I am at the point in the process where I’m tired of looking at the manuscript I’m supposed to be working on. I just want to put this one to bed already and move on to the creation process. For some reason, the editing process does this to me. I procrastinate and I have to force myself to sit down and rework it on the umpteenth walk through. It isn’t that I dislike my story or that it isn’t engaging, it is. I’ve just read it all before; several times before. I’m ready to move on to another part of the overall story or something entirely new.

I have about a hundred ideas stashed away. There are snippets of the better ones in a binder that I work in for such things. Others are in file folders waiting for me to take them to the next phase. Some are just loose pages in a green bin beside my desk that I need to go through and find a filing cabinet to put them in. That’s something that I am lacking since the move that will need to be remedied or I’ll be keeping them in this tote tucked into a closet until I need them again. If I do that, they may end up forgotten but, that’s just a risk you have to take.

I was blessed with an active imagination from a young age. I have snippets of stories and character sketches stretching back to my days in high school when I really began to develop a love of more complex stories and characters. I’m sure somewhere in my grandparents’ basement there are boxes of old journals and notebooks that I’ve stashed away while I was in school. So, I don’t anticipate that I shall be at a loss for ideas for books anytime soon.

As much as I would like to just put the current manuscript aside and work on something else; I won’t. I need to finish it and get it out on the market. There are some perks to being your own boss. There are some drawbacks to it as well. An editor at a publishing house might push me to finish or face a penalty in a contract I signed. As my own publisher, I have to be willing to push myself just as hard, if not harder, to get things done and put the work out to the public. Sure, I can push a deadline here or there but, they never go away. For them to just disappear means that I am giving up on this crazy dream of writing stories for a living. That isn’t about to happen anytime soon.

Maybe it is just impatience on my part. I’m always wanting to plow into something new instead of finishing something that I already have in progress. I’m terrible with endings. It is one of my many weaknesses as a writer. This isn’t because I lack the skill to write an effective end to a story. It is because I get emotionally attached to my characters. I don’t want to see the worlds I created, the people in them, or even their stories to end. And I suppose that’s why I’m happy that so many people have contacted me to say how much they want a continuation of The Secret of the Storm. I actually am excited to oblige the requests and create a series out of Slauson Cove and Elora Castain.

The only real issue, aside from funding the expenses of producing a new book,  is trying to finish what I have on my plate before I start working on something new.

Sometimes I wonder if I am the only writer to face this particular problem. Then I realize that being alone in that aspect isn’t likely and I laugh about it and sit my butt back in my chair to put on the editor’s cap once more.

Indiegogo Is A Go For Launch

TSOTS COVER ADIn May of 2013 I published my debut novel The Secret of the Storm. As a new author, I am excited at the response from my readers and that it has been so positive. I will admit that I was very surprised when I kept hearing the same feedback from readers; when is the sequel coming out?

Truth is, I hadn’t planned to make a return trip to Slauson Cove. When I finished The Secret of the Storm, I didn’t exactly think that people would want to hear more about Elora and the Walsingham family. I even moved on to new projects including a major series. How wrong I was though. Nearly everyone who has read the book has been calling me out for another book about Elora and the Walsingham family. The more I think about it, the more I realize that I wouldn’t mind going back to the sleepy little seaside town and telling more about what happens after the prophecy seems to be fulfilled.

People want to hear more about Elora and her family and friends. This is great for me. It means that I did something right in crafting that story. Producing another book is definitely on the to do list but, as I said previously, I did move on to other large scale projects that are eating a great deal of my time. One of those is nearly ready to hit the press. Taking the time to write another impromptu book is going to take resources that I don’t have.

old file case Family Secrets#2I’ve started an Indiegogo project to fund what I need to get another Slauson Cove book in the works. There are so many things that go into producing a book. I want to do this right and I want to be able to pay other indie-artists and freelancers to help me make it the best it can be. That means I need funds to work with. Not only will I need those to pay the people helping but, I’ll need money to help me promote it once it does come out.

I’m trying to raise $4,000.00 through Indiegogo. The campaign will last 60 days starting August 1st. I’ve chosen to go with the flexible funding option so that if we don’t reach the total goal I can still keep working on a more limited budget for those who do want to see the book come out.

Donating is simple and can be done via the campaign site using your Paypal account or a major credit card. Simply choose your level of support. Many of the levels include a tangible copy of the book sent to you when it is completed. The details of each level are there for you to see. Donors will be featured in a post here on the blog and will also have a special place on the main header as soon as the campaign ends and I receive the list of donors. This will likely be in early to mid October.

Work will be starting on the book in September. But books won’t be mailed until all is finished sometime in April or May of 2014. Writing a book takes time and I’m wearing a lot of hats. I’m a mom, a teacher, a writer, a publicist, a homemaker, and I am trying to market with social media and promotion tours here in East Texas.

For the next few weeks, you’ll see posts here about the upcoming release and the perks that I’m offering and why I’ve chosen them at various levels. If you can support the cause, please know that you’re not just helping me take some luxury vacation or buy some sort of trinket. You’re helping me get my career and life on track. You’re helping put a little girl in dance classes, paying for education costs, and helping enable me to stay home so I can focus on the two things I love most my family and my stories.

So please, at least read the campaign here. I know that times are tough and everyone else is struggling just as we are here. But there are other ways that you can help. Boost the signal and send it out to your social media. Tell people why you’d support it if you could. You never know, it may inspire someone else to contribute where you couldn’t. I will also be posting a flyer for you print off. You can post it wherever businesses will allow you to do so. Public bulletin boards are great places for this. You can also ask your local librarian, post it in your dorm, pass it around your reading and writing circles. There are any number of ways to get people to notice the project. The more people do, the more likely I am to reach my goal. And I can’t do that without all your support.

Thanks in advance for all the support you’re showing me. As a special celebration to get things kicked off, I’ve been able to lower the price on my Kindle Edition of The Secret of the Storm to $2.99. That will last through August 10th. So, it is a chance to get the original story at nearly half price. If you haven’t already read it. I suggest picking it up and getting to know Elora Castain and the Walsinghams.

Of Series & Sequels

TSOTS COVER ADThe official release of The Secret of the Storm is quickly approaching. You can already purchase the Kindle ebook through Amazon.com and you can purchase the print version in pre-release through the Createspace store here. I’m excited about the release, of course. I am even more psyched that the early reviews have been so positive and encouraging. It certainly makes all the work that went into producing it worth the effort and makes me want to keep going with the next book I am working on.

I keep getting the same question from early readers though.

Will there be a sequel to The Secret of the Storm?

In answering that, I can’t really give a definitive yes or no. I haven’t ruled out another trip to Slauson Cove and another chapter to the Walsingham legacy. In fact, I’ve toyed with ideas on how to continue that story. New characters would be introduced if I did go ahead with it. But, I’m not going to lie. It hasn’t been a high point on my priority list.

Even before the work on The Secret of the Storm was complete another story grabbed my attention and simply wouldn’t let go of me. So, I put my focus into that instead of a sequel. That story went from one book to a series of at least five.

AR PROMO1Armageddon Rising is a series that will be full of danger, intrigue, and even biblical prophecy. I don’t know why it was stuck in my head to tackle such heavy concepts. I suppose it is a calling of sorts because the story, research, and character development consistently cost me hours of sleep. And now that I’m in the middle of the editing phase of the project, it is costing me even more.

As with all my work, this is fiction. I don’t claim to be a biblical scholar or an expert on end times prophecy. My purpose in writing this is to tell a story that people will make people think and that they can enjoy. I’m not even going to claim that this is Christian fiction. I don’t feel that it meets the criteria to fit into that genre. But I can tell you that it is a page-turner.

I am notorious for working on multiple projects simultaneously. So, I wouldn’t quite rule out another Slauson Cove book if I continue to be asked about it by readers. There are things that I would like to explore with Elora that were, for me, unfinished in the first one. Don’t ask me when it will be out. The ideas are still merely a stack of notes in a folder with my character sketches.

If you haven’t gotten your ebook of The Secret of the Storm yes, it is available for the Kindle. The print release has been delayed but, I will keep all of you informed as to when the print version is available and events that will be coming up. I am planning to do a good number of book signings, readings, and even virtual touring with the help of Google+ and YouTube. So, if you want a chance to meet the woman behind the blog and the books, you’ll certainly get your chance.

If you have questions for me, I’d love to answer them here on the blog or in videos. (Yes, I’m thinking of branching out a bit.) So you can comment on any post or you can always email me your questions to annebellewrites@gmail.com. I always look forward to hearing from readers and other authors. I do try to respond to all my correspondence. Just have patience. Sometimes it takes a while for me to get through it all.

Happy Friday everyone. I hope that you enjoy your weekend.

Creating Characters and Places

To give readers a bit of a hint about the book that is being released this coming week I want to give you a bit of a sneak peek at the characters you’ll be meeting in The Secret of the Storm. To that end, I’m going to talk a bit about the main character in this book and how I created her and the fictional town of Slauson Cove. And forgive me if this seems vague but, I don’t want to give too much away for readers.

TSOTS COVER ADI spent a lot of time in my teens and twenties traveling the USA and into Canada. In fact for a while, I think my family feared that I would be a permanent nomad instead of settling down like they had hoped for me. During that time I did a good deal of traveling specifically in New England; visiting places like Cape Cod, Massachussettes and Newport, Rhode Island along with Philadephia, Boston, and New York. There were various things about these places that stuck in my mind and continue to do so today. Slauson Cove came from taking all of those elements that I came to love and weaving them together into a fictional place. From the local college campus coffee house to the stately historical homes, Slauson Cove was a bit of an ideal place for me. A conglomeration of all the things I had loved about New England towns. The lighthouses, the rocky beaches, and the quaint cottages.It wasn’t hard to imagine this town in my head with its sprawling hub of a town square and historical landmarks some of which aren’t put into the book at all.

You see, when I started creating this world there were so many details to the town and the people that comprised it that I wrote detailed descriptions of shops, offices, and even minor characters that come into play like the shopkeeper and his son that Elora meets when she is setting up shop at Walsingham Manor. The buildings in Slauson Cove have histories that are largely unknown but were important in my creative process. Coming up with the concepts are easy. Bringing them to life on the page is more difficult than people think. While you don’t use all the details in the manuscript, as the creator, you have to have them in your mind in order to keep things in a continuous flow. So in preparation, there was a good amount of “back-writing”, as I call it, so that those details were there if I needed them.

With characters it is much the same. I did extensive sketches of my main characters. When you meet Elora Castain she is a reporter for the Boston Globe who has worked her way up the ladder but, she is somewhat burned out on the job. It was never her real passion and the circumstances that she finds herself in give her a way out to explore her creative side. She’s more than happy to take the risk of starting over in her career in order to explore that part of her life.

I had an editor in the refining stages tell me that Elora came across as far too naive to be in the position she was in and living in a metro area like Boston. Personally, I refuse to think that there are not naive people living in bigger cities like Boston but, for the sake of the story I tried to rewrite certain elements in order to give her that city-girl edge at first. But with Elora, there is a sort of innocence that had to be explored. She discovers so much about her family’s history in such a unique way that it was, for me, important that the vulnerability show.

For Elora I did a number of sketches. I even wrote letters back and forth between me and the character that asked questions about her lifestyle, what she did know, what she felt when she discovered certain aspects of the history, and how she felt about the slayings in Slauson Cove. It was an eye-opening exercise that was used in another project that I was working on during the same time with a co-author. So, as people read the book, I might just release some of those research and developmental writings if people want to read them.

In my notebook there are sketches for characters that I didn’t even introduce in the book. There are notes for a sequel since so many of my beta readers wanted more after finishing The Secret of the Storm. Weigh in as you finish it and let me know if you’d like to see another volume. I’m open to the possibility of revisiting Elora and Slauson Cove. For now, get a sneak peek with the digital version via Amazon for the Kindle. It is available as a pre-release and the print version, if you prefer, is on the way soon.