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In which the author is sidetracked…

Wow, the time got away from me.

I’ve been most of the week in my little writer’s studio working away on my novel in the time that I’ve had. Happy to say that it is going really well. Hoping to be at the halfway mark by the end of the day today. We shall see if the muse sticks around like she has been. So far, so good. The outline helps. But it has been good to be doing what we writers do.

I am going to try to have something a bit less trivial next post. I’m looking over options from my brainstorming sessions to find something interesting to bring you.

I’ve been thinking over the idea of bringing an episodic fiction series to Patreon. Initially thinking about something with a bit of a vintage feel to it. For those who don’t know me well yet, you’ll find that I love the Victorian Era fashions and social graces. I’ve wanted very much to write something set in that era. I’m not sure if it would quite fit the usual steampunk mold or not. I’m not about the cogs and gears so much. But, I do think it could be interesting and find an audience. For me it would be a bit different from the usual style as well. That sort of break could be good for me.

Speaking of breaks, I did take one this evening to watch Kong: Skull Island. I’d seen the movie while on a date when it was in theaters. I’m not usually an action film girl. I made an exception here because I remembered it being pretty good. (Well, it could also have been because of Tom Hiddleston but, I digress.) It was a good film. I think it went into a greater detail that opened the whole concept up for a new generation to enjoy. Definitely was more about the myth behind it and wove in a whole history that was interesting and kept you riveted.

I have mixed feelings about the remakes I see now. It almost feels that Hollywood isn’t willing to take chances on new ideas anymore. There is no shortage of new fiction out there to pull from. Many a novelist also dabbles in screeenwriting. We’d love to see our characters brought to life on the silver screen. But, again, Hollywood would rather invest time and resources into making a new version of King Kong or It for example. I get it, those are sure box office revenue winners. They are in it to make money. I’d just like to see more storytellers get their work to the audiences that will love them.

Before I call it a night, I want to take a moment to reach out to all of you. What would you like to see here? I have ideas but, I would love to answer some of your questions as well. It can be about writing, self-publishing, creativity, or even just life in general.

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?

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.

Writers Aren’t Hermits After All

291826_364783330281701_2094463518_nI fell prey to a stereotype a number of years ago that nearly cost me everything. You see, Hollywood and other media outlets have created this vision of what writers are. So often people have an image of what writers do that includes being sequestered away from the world, agonizing over every word, while we’re chain smoking or drinking heavily. Whether we’re actually alcoholics or just addicted to coffee or teas is another discussion entirely but, it is safe to say that the stereotype has us all addicted to something. I am certain that there are a great many authors out there who fit this stereotype quite well but, I am not one of them.

It strikes me as amusing that people think that we don’t interact with others or that we are hermits. We’re artists and in order to write about people, to create characters, we must actually interact with people to have an understanding of different personalities. We must, as Julia Cameron says, “fill the creative well” with ideas and inspiration. And ultimately it is in living life that we find that drive and push to be inspired to create whatever we become known for.

There is no denying that writing takes a certain amount of solitude. We learn that there are critical times in which we must get away and focus on what we need to accomplish. We do agonize over the right words, the grammatical faux pas, and even the right descriptions for our settings. It isn’t difficult to lose yourself for hours, days, weeks, sometimes even months while finishing a project. But the fact remains that eventually, all writers must get out of their offices and experience something outside its confines.

419149_427914573910922_1192315579_nI’ve always been a very vibrant personality. Just ask my mother, or any of my friends for that matter, and they will all tell you that I am quick to laugh, quirky, personable, and compassionate. They will also tell you that I can be quite the ham if you put me in front of a microphone. But that happens rarely these days. They’ll also tell you that for the last few years, I was very different from the person I had been. And they’ll likely say that they were worried about me.

It is funny how things can get away from you before you even realize it is happening. In my case, it was a sort of forced hermitage. Yes, I was writing but things came slowly. I was in a situation where I couldn’t go out and be around people other than my parents. And because I was trying to save a marriage that was failing miserably, I allowed it to happen. In the process I gained a lot of weight, became depressed, and eventually came to feel so isolated that I really didn’t think anyone would care if I just disappeared. There were days in which I sat for hours staring at my blank screen wondering where the words had gone. Other days, I gave up and played computer games or just slept. It was a dark time in my life that I honestly don’t care to repeat.

I suppose my ex thought that by keeping me at home the words would come and I would just be an overnight success and he could stay home after that. I don’t know how many times I tried to explain that counting on the books to make consistent full-time income was unrealistic. I mean, every writer wants to be a best-seller and make a million dollars. It isn’t a bad dream as long as it is tempered with a dose of reality. Keeping me at home wasn’t the way to make that dream a reality though.

Artists, including writers, need to be stimulated. We need fresh air, laughter, people to talk to, and experiences to write about. To relay anything to our readers we need to be able to experience it first hand. From the feeling of silk on your skin on a bed to the rush of riding a roller coaster, everything can be an experience. Emotions need to be experienced. Falling in love, coping with death, the birth of a child, parental love, the loss of a job, or even the thrill of taking a big vacation all of these things we can imagine but, to truly relate them we have to go through them ourselves in some way.

Putting the writing aside, you can’t sell books if you don’t meet people to tell about what you’re doing. You can only do so much of that online. Forums, facebook, blogs, and other social media will only take you so far. If you’re boring and all you post about is the fact that you released a book, it won’t get you any brownie points with the public. It certainly isn’t going to sell books.

Personally, my life has changed tremendously in the last six or seven months. I’ve gone from being at my lowest to feeling as though I’ve found not only my calling in career but also in life. I am experiencing emotions like love on an entirely new level. I am living life again and taking advantage of time with family and friends. I’m meeting new people, reacquainting with old friends, and it is very much a process of rediscovering myself.

My fiance doesn’t let me stay too busy for too long writing. Yes, he knows and understands that I need to work but he insists on getting out and doing things together. Whether it is taking the munchkin to the park, going out for ice cream, or going to church on Sunday morning we try to keep it simple. We try to make the most of the time we get together. He encourages me to go to writers groups and do things that I enjoy even if he doesn’t. We share so much that it seems rare that there is something we don’t want to do together. The truth is, it is really amazing having someone that is truly supportive of my efforts and what I want to do.

You can meet writers everywhere. We are out there among the waking world. We’re at the gym, in your Sunday school class, at the restaurants and cafes you frequent, and no matter when you walk in a bookstore, you’ll likely find a writer somewhere amongst the shelves.

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.

A Long Overdue Update

I have been so super busy between work, discussing options, and writing that I hadn’t even realized that it had been a month since I updated this blog. This isn’t a bad thing for me. In fact, it means that things have been going very well for me. New relationships, new job (that I actually enjoy), writing projects are going well. Other than being sick yesterday, I have only minor complaints about my life at the moment. Those things that I am complaining about will be rectified soon enough.

There is something exciting about moving from one phase of your life to another. And I will admit that if you’d told me where I would be a year ago, I would likely have just laughed and replied, “Yeah, right.” But, here I am. And truth is, I am happier than I have ever been. I have so many amazing things in my life now that I couldn’t have had before. I attribute these changes to 3 things:

  • 1. My acceptance of my faith and putting my trust in God to direct my life.
  • 2. My realizing how utterly unhealthy my last relationship was and having the courage to do what I needed to do to get out of it.
  • 3. My amazing family who have been such a tremendous support system through all of this.

Honestly, one should never underestimate the importance of a good family. I’m not saying that every family is a good one. Certainly, there are some dysfunctional ones that you may be better staying away from but, I am blessed with at least one side of my family being awesome and I try to not take advantage of their support. They may not understand everything I do but, when a decision is made – no matter how they may talk me out of making that decision- they do their best to support it.

I am still working on that balance though. Between the part time work, spending time with family, and writing it gets a little strenuous on my time. Not that I’m complaining. In fact, I wouldn’t have it any other way. My time is spent doing things that I love and with the people I love. So, there isn’t much more in life that I can ask for. Well, with a couple of obvious exceptions in my neck of the woods.

As I write this, I’m on my lunch break from the day job excited that I’ll get more hours than normal this week. There are lots of things that I am looking forward to doing with the money; goals that I will be able to reach faster. I’m working on edits for the book and will be making some announcements on it soon (I hope). I’m developing a game plan, which is something that I’ve not had in a long time. I think things work better when you have some sort of plan and organization method.

I’m so proud right now though. One of the amazing parts of doing what I do is watching the difference it makes in the lives of the kids around me. I participated in the Young Author’s program when I was in school. A couple of weeks ago, I found out that my niece and my god daughter both have followed suit and won awards in their age group. Needless to say, I’m a proud Aunt at this point. It also motivates me to continue working on my own projects. It truly is amazing what influence a child can have on your life, even if they are not your own. Just knowing that they want to emulate you is enough to make you want to be the best person you can be.

Now, I am trying to work on getting my life in the order I want it to be. I’m trying to organize things for my work and jut for life in general. I have two projects to put to bed and I have others that are just getting started. I also know that I’m going to be moving again soon and setting up a new office in the process (along with the rest of the house) and I am trying to simplify and get things in order. That, my friends, is sometimes easier said than done.

Life is good though. I’m happy and working away on projects while spending time with the amazing people in my life and working at a day job that I enjoy. So, I can’t really ask for more than that at this point. Well, maybe I could ask for these edits to be done already but, that’s just part of this writer’s life.