Since returning from France, Annie couldn’t help but think if Sturtagaard hadn’t let her know that Amelie was a vampire, she would have spent the week deliriously recovering from her recent injuries, watching television, baking, or enjoying some other mindless activity rather than chasing and killing the vampire. She shuddered at the thought.
She had little time in France to dwell on the loss of the black market or of its connection to her father’s eight-year-old murder investigation. But in the end, the journey across Europe left her exhausted. She moved the heating pad to a new location and snuggled in to the corner of her sectional sofa, wrapping herself in a thick, warm blanket. It didn’t take long for sleep to overtake her; leaving her blissfully unaware for the entire afternoon.
When she woke, she was enveloped in Cham’s arms as he himself slept soundly. Wide awake, Annie grimaced.
Of course, and I’m not anymore.
Annie slid out of his embrace, pulled the blanket to his chin and left him sleeping in the corner. The house was dark, she switched on the kitchen light blinding her momentarily. When she gained her bearings she was immediately drawn to the dusty box that had been sitting on her kitchen table since before she left for France. After searching her house and garage, she finally found the box in the crawl space in the basement, where her father hid it eight years prior. But the newspaper from Sturtagaard, letting her know Princess Amelie was still alive and living as a vampire, put the box on hold; and though Cham was curious, he left the box alone. Now feeling better and rested, her curiosity was overwhelming.
Maybe it’s nothing.
Annie was fairly certain it would be his missing case file for the case he was investigating when he died. She sighed, glanced at a sleeping Cham; his chest rose and fell peacefully.
She lifted the lid and peered inside where she found a case file, and pulled it from the box. His handwriting was slanted and square, scrawled across the spaces for Guard Name, case name and number. She could still feel the grooves of the ink as he pressed the pen into the folder. Her stomach roiled with relief and uncertainty.
Is this still important?
With a tentative sigh, Annie opened the folder that had been partitioned into several sections; the first item she saw was a note addressed to her in the same familiar writing.
“What the hell?” she asked no one as she unclipped a note.
My dearest Annie,
If you are reading this, I am dead. And as I write this, that realization hits me hard with the things I will miss or have already missed. For that, my angel, I am so very sorry.
But sometimes as a wizard guard, there are cases so challenging that you are forced to do things that you otherwise would not do. Sometimes the rules can no longer apply. There is too much at stake to risk our way of life and the lives of our family.
I have to make a choice. I have to choose being with you and Samantha for as long as I can, or I can save the world from ourselves. It’s a choice that I deeply regret that I have to make. Sometimes our choices lead us to this very place and time.
I came across Wolfgange Rathbone in the course of this case. The Chintamani Stones that once belonged to King Solomon have been stolen and are sold in the Black Market. They are a danger to our people, and to the nonmagicals that we share this world with.
So sorry my love, but they asked me to stop. They asked me to hand over the stones that I was able to retrieve. They belonged to the Wizard Guard, to the Wizard Council but I did as they requested because they threatened my child. They threatened you, Annie.
My dear, sweet Annie. It wasn’t the first time that your very existence has been threatened. I regret that I will not physically be there for you at any time to protect you. But there is a reason why I so diligently trained you, my dear. Because there will be a time in your future when you need to know what to do, how to keep yourself alive. I gave you all that I could in the short time that I had with you.
I promise you, Annie, that I gave them back all of the stones I had in my possession. But when you deal with secret societies such as the Fraternitatem of Solomon, which hide themselves away and don’t participate in the world as it is, you find that you can’t trust them. They are paranoid, distrustful, and have many secrets I wish I could have shared with you.
They had Rathbone in their employ, and it’s him I fear the most. Not because I can’t defend myself against his weaknesses, but because I have you in my head, and your safety blinds me. I will die before I let them get to you. Because there is a prophecy my love. You are at the center, and I will do whatever I can in life and death to ensure that the prophecy doesn’t come true.
This might seem to be the ramblings of a man who knows his death is eminent, but I assure you this is real. If I am dead, it was at the hands of Rathbone on the orders of the Fraternitatem of Solomon. They will still be after the stones that I promise I no longer have.
Please believe me that I will do everything in my power to keep myself safe, to keep my friends and my children away from this difficult case. I do this for all of you because it was I who dug myself into this mess.
You deserved so much better than what I gave you. I wish that I could have raised you more like I did Samantha, but I couldn’t. I had to protect you.
Rathbone knows this prophecy, and he is using it against me to get what he wants. Be wary of him.
I didn’t die in vain. I died to protect you and the powers you will someday have.
You are so very special, my love, so strong, so beautiful. I wish you happiness, security, and safety. May you remember all that I taught you. Be safe, my darling. I love you always.
Shaking, Annie placed the folder inside her blood-lock cabinet and slammed the door shut. As she reread the letter from her father, she slid herself to the floor, lowered her head, and cried. Read The Wizard Hall Chronicles on Amazon.com.Continue reading
I'm very proud to announce my third book in The Wizard Hall Chronicles series, Wizard War.
After spending the last year deep in edits, working with beta readers, and sending out books to ARC readers, I'm so excited to share this new adventure with Annie Pearce, Cham Chamsky and the rest of the Wizard Guards as they traipse through Europe in search of a vampire on a murderous streak.
Eight months ago, Annie Pearce, closed the murder investigation of Princess Amelie of Amborix and put her killer in prison. So receiving a newspaper article with a picture of the princess alive and well, walking the streets of Paris, left Annie shocked and confused.
Who sent the picture?
With the threat of exposure hanging over her, Annie and her wizard guard partner, Spencer Ray chase the wily, young, vampire across Europe attempting to stop her murderous streak. When finding the vampire seems nearly impossible, Annie seeks out an old nemesis, Sturtagaard the vampire, to help them kill the demon princess.
But all is not as it seems. As Annie traipses across the jurisdiction of other wizard guard units, who blame her for the situation, tensions rise. A vulnerable Annie, must push aside her self-doubt and focus her energy on stopping the vampire. If she’s not careful, all her plans can lead to a wizard war, one that only she can stop.
So how can I say that? Because yes, there are days that I can sit at the computer and the words don't come. Other days, different things become more important and I put off the writing because it's hard. It's not writer's block. It's anxiety of my own making.
Writing a book, a poem, a novella, a short story, is a scary proposition. You put yourself out there, expose your emotions, your story, personal story. The anxiety of that can be overwhelming. My anxiety stems from the fact that I'm rewriting my former second book in the series called She Wulf. I'm using part of the original story and expanding on it to now fit in the new series arc. It's a daunting project and in a way, I'm tied to the series, and have to work within these new parameters.
There's been a lot of that thing called writer's block, that thing that doesn't really exist. So how do I get past it. I write. I'm not talking about amusing, well written, ready to publish writing either. I'm talking about raw, nearly outlining, crap. Stuff I wouldn't bother to show my best of friends.
Being a writer is just that. We write. Even though this is essentially a re-write, it is truly a new book that has to do more than one thing. It has to link all of the books together, it has to explain a lot of unexplained plot points, it has to be an interesting story. And when I struggle to sit down and write chapter 9 because in all other incarnations of the book, this scene was always troublesome and never worked well, I had to seriously look at how I put this scene together.
It took me two days to work through the problem and only tonight was I able to really figure out how it happens. It's a pivotal scene. It moves the story from here to there, it had to be right. It also stinks. The writing is poor, but the story is the way it needs to be.
I truly believe there is no such thing as Writer's Block. After working on my fourth book, I understand that when I'm blocked, it has more to do with anxiety of the scene I'm setting up. When I understand that I have the ability to forgive myself for taking my time, for wasting time away from the book. And when I release some of the anxiety I can I ultimately always do, return to the book and write past the block.
I think it's the same with anything in life. New experiences can cause us to put things off because we're uncomfortable. Or we can feel stuck at a job, or just feeling the blues. It happens. Life is tricky and I think the key to working past the bumps whether its life or writing books is to believe in yourself, believe in your vision or in my case my story, and chip away little by little at the problem or the plot point that isn't working.
Or in some cases, completely re-write the book to make it work. Don't settle. You are worth the effort.Continue reading
All we writers want is that single opportunity to give our book to an agent. To have one person be intrigued enough to ask for a full manuscript.
It's the first step, to traditionally publishing a book. You don't interview agents and pick the one you want to work with. You pitch the book with a query letter, and a small sampling of the book, usually the first 50 pages and a short synopsis. If you're lucky, they'll respond and ask for the whole book.
I've sent cold queries. Lots and lots and lots of them. I've come close. I had an agent tell me she wanted to like the book but couldn't get into the first three chapters I was required to send with the query. I was crushed.
When you find yourself with an opportunity to pitch an agent, you take it. I've been set up with agents through friends. I've been unsuccessful. I've gone to book conferences where I've met agents who have asked for more.
It was my weekend activity. I had the chance to pitch my book to several agents, four to be exact. Now the first pitch when badly in that I was all over the board and in the end realized I had mislabeled my genre. Who knew I wasn't urban fantasy. I am indeed, contemporary fantasy.
But I digress.
The reward is to give enough information about your book that someone will ask for more; more chapters and the ultimate goal, the entire manuscript.
So back to this weekend. I had a total of four pitches. The first not so good. However, the second, third and fourth went better than expected. All agents asked for me to send them a pitch. One wasn't specific on requirements, I looked them up online. One agent was specific, I sent her what was required; the first 50 pages of the book to the address she requested.
Now the last agent was unexpected. She asked for the synopsis, my author bio and wait for it…. the manuscript. The holy grail of pitching the book. An actual request for the actual book.
In the aftermath of a successful pitch; there's a down side. The feelings that come with sending your book to the agent. After hitting send, the feeling of dread that you've sent the book off and it wasn't ready. It sucks. It needs more work. “What was I thinking?” The process is a painful one for writers. It's sending your baby off to be critiqued, to be hated, or hopefully to be loved.
Thankfully, I was fortunate. Three of the four requested additional info, from synopses, to the entire manuscript.
I just sent my baby off to the agent. I hope she likes it.
I had a story to tell, my own story of writing. I sat down at the computer and began to type. My fingers flew over the keyboard and the words poured out of me. And in six weeks’ time, I had a book. The End.
Only, it wasn’t the end. It was really the beginning. After that first draft, I must have made 30 more sets of changes. I was a total novice to this process. I used an online self-publishing site to create my book from cover-to-cover. I self-published the book in 2010. The End.
But this wasn’t the end either. After working on Book Two of the series, I hired an editor who suggested that I re-work the first book and re-release it. It had been widely reviewed and very well received. After a blog tour, my book was #1 in occult fiction on Amazon. The End.
Only, once again, I wasn’t at the end. I released what was then second book in the series called “She Wulf.”* And the writing process completely stalled. I realized that changes needed to be made to the whole series. I decided to rewrite the ending of The Day of First Sun and finish up story lines such as what happened to all the dead bodies and discuss what happened to the zombies.
As I read through the book, I saw many different things I hadn't seen before. I added scenes, I added conflict, and in the end, I completely rewrote the last half of the book, putting Annie in some serious situations she'd have to work through.
I also added more changes on the advice of my editor. She told me to put in more of the “beginnings” of the relationships rather than having all established relationships in between the pages.
In the process, one seemingly minor change, set the whole tone of the book with the addition of a dead body outside the bar. This new beginning unveiled the theme of protecting the secret of magic from the non-magical world. Lastly, I added a whole new character to the story that will play a big role in the series someone wanting to expose her and magic.
All of these changes led to a fuller, richer story. At least I hope so. In the end, I'm guessing that there were about 40 or 50 different drafts of the book. The current published version of The Day of First Sun is very different from what I sat down to write in 2009. And the process has been very different from I expected it to be when I had the dream of writing a book. It takes flexibility and the willingness to open your heart to change. It takes the advice of experts and listening to the inner voice within yourself about direction of the story and conveying the truth about the characters that you create. And, of course, it takes patience. The End. (for now…)
* She Wulf was shelved for a time and will be rewritten to fit the new timeline as Book 4 in the series. A new Book 2 was then written and published, Black Market. Click here for more information on this exciting chapter in the Wizard Hall Chronicles.Continue reading
The mere idea of sending a book to editing is like sending your oldest child to college. You care for and nurture your child, feed and clothe them, heal their wounds, hold them when they cry. It's 18 years of care, to unceremoniously drop them off and drive away.
I'm not joking. Sending a book to the editor is much the same emotional roller coaster. I live with my book, everyday. I craft the story, I nurture the characters with words, I work the plot by adding conflict, I tear down my characters to let them rise up again. It's an up and down roller coaster of emotions, of story, and it takes a lot of time and hard work. And then you send them to college.
So yes, finishing my book and emailing it off to the editor for editing, is much like raising my children. While I don't tear my children down to build them up, I do hold them up when they fall and I encourage them when they need it. I'm there to nurture and raise them up.
After nurturing a book for a year (sometimes longer), you set it free. Let another set of eyes share in the story, connect with the characters, offer suggestions on how to improve the book. You know… editing. Sometimes the mere thought of having sent the book makes you break out in a cold sweat, jump on the computer and cry for the book back. “I'm not ready!” you might screech.
Though it's not my last, my latest book was the one that had me up at night. After sending the book to my editor, I kept thinking, “It's not ready.” “I'm not done.” “There's so much more I could have written.” I waited an paced, much like I do when I'm trying to reach my child who leaves me an email, “There's a problem mom,” but doesn't tell me what that problem is. You pace, you worry, you wonder.
Eventually you reach your child. The editor finally sends you editor notes. The wait is worth it. The product is strong, can stand alone, and your child, much like your book is better than okay.
It's the same roller coaster, children and writing. Both give you joy, both are pain. But in the end both are worth it.
Look for it! My newest book child is coming soon. November 1, 2018 on Amazon.com.
I've learned a lot in the four years since I first wrote The Day of First Sun. I've made a lot of mistakes too. But as I put all that I've learned into practice, I find myself finishing my final edit of that first book that I've completely re-written for the fourth time. The reason behind the re-writes stem from my early mistakes with editing. I say this because, when I first wrote the book, I never processed the story in between each edit. And without that time to process the book, the story and the characters, I never saw the book for what it could be only for what it was.
When I made the decision to re-write the book, it had been over a year since I had edited, read and touched that version of the book. It was that time that allowed me to see so much more of what the book could be and as I edited, I re-wrote. I took out the scenes that I knew made no sense, I strengthened sections that needed additional information and I added more than I thought I had in me because pieces of the book revealed themselves to me as though I was treasuring hunting and discovering a new treasure.
And it was a treasure. As the story opened up to me, I learned more about Annie and Cham, more about the murderer, the suspects and the victims. I changed locations, added tension and instead of wrapping the story up with a neat little bow, I let the story work itself out slowly and thoughtfully.
It's the biggest lesson I learned from the last four years. Editing. Not that it's crucial, because it is, but giving yourself time in between each edit to process the work you did and let it sink in before you begin the next edit. Before I would finish a draft and eight hours later begin my next one. It left little time to really think about the book.
It's taken this months to edit this book, not days or weeks and I even took a break in the middle to rethink what I find to be a crucial character than the editor didn't think was. I needed time to decide what I would do with the character, and when I was ready (when book two of the series draft one was completed), I began to clean up those final suggestions and thoughts the editor left me with. Tonight I inserted the changes to Annie's newest nemesis, which I think are far stronger than what they were because I gave myself time to consider what I needed to do with them.
And now, I'm looking over the edge of the cliff. The one that represents the publishing of this edition of the book. I glance over the edge, no longer worried or scared that the book isn't good enough. I did what I set out to do, I made it stronger, I gave it more to feel about, I made it better. I'm more excited than I have ever been over this book and I can't wait to share.
Editing will always be the most important thing you can do for your book. A professional editor will not only make sure all your commas are correctly placed, but whoever they are they will make sure your story isn't confusing, makes sense and it readable.
I thank my editor every day.
As I start this blog entry I'm really want you to know I'm not trying to whine or complain. I'm just taking stock of the last year and making decisions. This is really meant to be a look back and maybe someone, somewhere can benefit from my mistakes. Or maybe you can relate or maybe this will make you feel better because things aren't as bad for you. Or maybe no one will read it. I can never be sure.
I'm seriously thinking of quitting. I'm not sure I have what it takes to be an independent author and maybe the last four years were simply the act of fooling myself into thinking I was actually a writer. Pros and cons cloud my mind as I contemplate giving it all up and I change my mind so fast that my head is ready to spin-off. I wish I had me to talk to when I started this process, when I decided to write my first book. This debate started when I released She Wulf and agonized over horrible reviews and it's come to this because I haven't sold a book in months. Granted I haven't been pushing them, I'm just starting to think it's not going to happen.
I know I've chosen a difficult path for myself and I know we all can't be best-selling authors, but I was hoping for something a little more. I at least put myself out there and I tried, but honestly, bad and so so reviews make me believe that my work is just that, so so and bad. Either that or I'm failing miserably finding my core audience. Regardless, I'm finding it difficult to find the inspiration to keep at it. So if my legacy in the end becomes a cautionary tale for other writers so be it. I'll just have to find that happiness somewhere else. In the meantime, I honestly feel like I have something useful to share. So here it is the many things I've learned about writing and publishing. I hope it inspires or helps, either way, it's one perspective that not many chose to share.
1) Editing. Hire a good editor. My first go round I went through CreateSpace. I'm not saying their editors are bad, I'm just saying it wasn't the perfect situation for me. I need someone who I could easily contact. Someone that I can throw ideas out to. Someone who intimately knows my book, story and characters. Before re-releasing The Day of First Sun, I had it re-edited. To this day I can still go to my editor, Ashley and ask her questions. She one of my biggest supporters and one of the reasons I've hung around this long.
2) Editing. Yeah. You really need to edit. Two drafts might be enough for some, but for me what I learned about editing is this, finishing one draft and starting the next one after only eight hours of sleep isn't long enough to process your work, think about the direction or come up with new and unusual plot points or characters. I edited The Day of First Sun at least six times, one right after the other. When I decided to re-write it last year, I picked it up for the first time after a full year, and boy did I see it differently. So much so it became a complete rewrite. Though the story is the same, it's really so different and I might say even better.
3) Editing. Again. See number one and two. Don't be afraid to re-write, move, or edit out stuff. I tried so hard to create the world in the first book that I wanted to include everything, including flashbacks, spells, and creatures. Write them down and save them for the next book. As it turns out, I removed the memory modification scene from The Day of First Sun. I think I'm actually using that spell in my second book in the series.
4) Editing. And you thought it was something else. Make sure you trust and like your editor. This one is for Kira, who after I received horrible, mean and nit picky reviews for She Wulf , she kept me sane, was a great support and took time out from her busy life to teach me new ways to write and edit. I wrote Yeti with her help. She spent weeks coming up with lesson plans and going through the story re-teaching me how to write and edit my work. I can never thank her enough for doing this on her own time. Her support has been amazing. I wish I was a better student and had more to show for it, but because of her my rewrite of The Day of First Sun is far better than it originally was.
4) Write everyday. And you thought it was about editing again. Nope. I'm done with editing. I wanted to be a writer when I was seven years old. I did write a lot when I was a kid. I had my own detective series with a female detective named Jeffrie Marcus. (Thanks Nancy Drew.) When I got my first job out of college I knew it wasn't going to be perfect and I knew I wouldn't write a book at first, so I worked my way into a writing position so that I could do what I wanted and make money while I contemplated my first love. Eventually life got in the way of my dream. Kids, death, depression can muck up your life and they are things you can't go back and change. It's the one thing I truly regret is that I stopped writing. So if you want to be a writer, write even if that means you write a line a day.
5) Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Tiberr, Instagram… Buffy had the Evil Trio as her arch nemesis. I have Twitter. You have to be social on social media if you are trying to sell your books. I have yet to master this which is part of my problem. Social media is not necessarily for introverts. I still have no idea how to make it work. I've hired help and she's been fabulous increasing my twitter following and Facebook author page, but I'm still at a loss as to how to create these relationships the marketing experts always talk about. I'm trying to build a following but for me I think I just don't know what to say. Find out who your audience is and what they are interested in and talk about that. If you figure it out please let me know.
6) The blog. Now here's my problem with blogging. I don't read blogs. I usually found the information very high level and not usually useful. Also, see number five. I just don't know what to say. I've been reworking and rewriting trying to find that one thing that gets people interested and every once and awhile I hit on something that people want to read. But mostly it's high level and quick because none of us has time to read lengthy material. What I do know is, talk about yourself and share. So here's my sharing.
7) Don't jump into self publishing unless you really know what it consists of. I jumped right away. I didn't edit my work enough. I rushed without learning about professional editing, without talking to agents, or attending book fairs. Talk to other authors, find out what's out there. Find someone like me who's willing to share the pitfalls. I've done this several times to other aspiring writers because I want them to go in knowing what they're getting themselves into. I wish I knew.
8) You can't please everyone. I have a writer friend who's had the opportunity to talk to agents and others in the book industry. Each one of them has offered her suggestions on how to change her book. She's made so many changes that the book is far from her original vision for it. I suggested she make changes that make sense and yet allow her to retain her vision. She's rethinking her book because unless one of the agents is taking her as a client, she can't try and please all of them.
9) You can't please everyone but you can accept suggestions. As part of eight, here's nine, similar and yet different. This friend once told me she really liked one of my characters, one that I had only written into the first half of the book. After discussing our books with each other, I realized she was right. I should include Jack Ramsey in the latter part of the book and planned how to do that. I figured an FBI agent whether he was in charge of the case or not would want to be there to see the case through and I had him conclude the investigation by being there to capture the murderer and arrest him. The second major change came after my editor pointed out that all of my relationships started before the book's timeline and that maybe it would be more interesting if we saw the start of some of those relationships. I thought about it, agreed and changed one of the key relationships in the book. Jack and Annie no longer knew each other prior to the story. It changes how they interact and creates a little tension and confusion. Make the changes that make sense, because you can't please everyone. Please yourself first.
10) Believe in your work. I love my characters. I love the story lines. I love my book series. I really believe I have a great idea for book series and a television show. If I don't believe that I should stop writing.
11) Most importantly, believe in yourself. No one else will. You will find supportive and helpful friends but only you can write and edit and do the things you need to do in order to make your dreams happen and you have to believe that you can do it. If you don't believe in yourself you won't get very far. You are a writer, you deserve a chance to try to make it. We don't always get what we want but if you have no faith in yourself, you will never achieve anything. And I discovered I believe that I can do this.
Am I bitter? Sometimes. Do I lack self-esteem? When it comes to my books, right now yes. But I've learned a lot in the last four years. And one of those things that I've learned is, I have a lot to offer. I'm a good writer with a good idea. It's just going to take me a little longer than some. And in reality I was never really going to quit. I'm a writer after all and that's what I was born to do.Continue reading
Yes it's a lot of work but sometimes you have to put in a lot to get a lot back. It started with my blog tour for She Wulf, in September, 2012. Within the first two days I had three of the most awful reviews I hope no one would ever receive. Basically, everything from my writing, to my editing, to the location of the book to title were critiqued and criticized. Honestly, I never cried so much in my life. After that, most of the reviews that came in read something like this “I liked it but…”
I couldn't speak for the first week. Every time I replayed the blog tour I cried. I pulled away and out and to a break from Twitter, and from Facebook. I stopped blogging. Pretty much I was ready to quit writing. Give up on that dream that I've had since I was seven. But something stopped me. It was the desire to do better. Pretend that I was a fabulous writer and I could make this happen. I also had an amazing editor who told me I shouldn't quit. That I had something there. She gave me some of her time and instructed me on how to edit, what to look for and offered suggestions. If it wasn't for the time she volunteered to work with me, I'd be working a full time job by now in some other field other than writing.
But I'm here. And somewhere after receiving those editing lessons, I made a decision. If I'm going to fix what's wrong with She Wulf, I'm going to start at the beginning. That's why I rewrote The Day of First Sun.
It's a total and complete gut job. I kept the characters and the basic storyline and then I proceeded to do a line by line rewrite. I deleted almost as much as I added. I changed a lot. It's far better, though I thought that about She Wulf and found out I was wrong. But it's all about the positive. It's a far better book.
Currently the book is in the very capable hands of several friends and colleagues and I'm hoping to have a serious discussion with each and every one of them soon, about the merits of the new book. I hope they like it. I hope I did well. Because by the end of the year, there will be a third edition of The Day of First Sun and if I'm really good, a better version of She Wulf.
Is it worth it? Only time will tell. I hope you like it.