Tonight I removed The Day of First Sun and She Wulf from Amazon. I'm sad and yet I'm so very relieved. I've been struggling for a little over a year with my idea of where I was going to where I actually was standing and they were worlds apart. I never fully recovered from really bad reviews and it's sent me into a tail spin ever since. The thing is, I still believe that I have a really good idea worth reading and pursuing, I just think now after so many years, the best place for me is, if I'm going to start the book series over, I need everything to start from scratch. That includes no longer selling the version of the books that will be gone as of this summer.
If I didn't really believe in the books, I could have just let them fester in cyberspace forever, not really selling them, letting them rot and maybe once and awhile someone might decide to buy a copy, just because. But I actually do believe in them. I love the characters, I love the premise of the series. And if I spend so much time rewriting the first book, shouldn't I give it a chance to succeed on its own and not be tied into the old book and the old reviews?
Yeah. That was my thought too. I do feel like crying. It's like going to sleep with two arms and waking up with only one. A large chunk of my life is tied to those books. A lot of tears went into them. A lot of tears convinced me it's time to take them down, make a fresh start and prepare for the next phase, the revisions of the stories that are so much a part of me, I'd miss them if they were truly gone.
It's a great time to do this with the New Year just starting. I'm finishing up the new book two, I'm waiting on my editor for the new book one and I will have two books to share with everyone by this summer. That I can guarantee. If I didn't believe in myself I wouldn't be putting myself through so much pain. I guess I'm just that type of person who needs to do it more than once to make it work.
You can't be afraid to throw it all away and start again. You have to believe in yourself and in your vision before you can make it happen. And sometimes, you have to start from scratch. It may seem like a complete waste of time and some people have asked me why I don't just write something else. I just can't. I need to finish what I started and see it to the end. Annie and Cham deserve that and I deserve the chance to live out my dream.
I'm not done. This blog will so go on and I have a new project I'm working on as I finish up my two new fiction books. I learned something tonight. I have a voice, I have something valuable to say. So I'm going to just say it.Continue reading
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
Monsters keep us awake at night, they haunt our dreams. That could be said of agents, those people who make or break the writer based on their judgement of not so much our work but our presentation of our work in three short paragraphs. To be fair to the agents, they receive thousands of queries a week, an insurmountable number to weed through and for us as writers, if we don't have an engaging, insightful, thrilling query letter, that agent won't see more of us than that.
It's not the part of the process that infuriates me the most, it's the after they read our work and the notes they make and give to us. I have a friend who's trying desperately to find an agent. She's had several read her work and each of them has given her various story changes that they feel she needs to make and maybe they might be interested. She's made updates and restructured the book and is less comfortable with the story than she was when she first began the process. I've suggested she stick with her original vision, because unless the agent picks her up as a client, she'll be working to please everyone and you simply can't do that.
My experience is different. I've had one agent and apparently her assistant read my book She Wulf. It's similar in that you can't please everyone so what is a writer to do? I attended a self publishing event several years ago and had an agent and an editor review my book. Needless to say my experience with the agent didn't work as I had hoped. First I was assigned to an agent who had no interest in Science Fiction or Fantasy. So after pitching my book idea, she basically told me that you can't do that. Time travel is science fiction, magic is fantasy and the two can't co-exist in the same book. I nearly cried as she told me my work was wrong. In the end she asked me to forward the manuscript to her, which I hesitantly did, and in the end, nothing came of it. If you know anything about the process of finding agents, you always send manuscripts to agents requesting your specific genre.
I must admit, I nearly walked out of the event, no longer interested, wishing the earth would open up and swallow me whole. But I stayed anyway and listened to the editor, an editor of science fiction and fantasy. She liked the few pages that I had sent to the event organizers and felt I had something there, giving me hope that maybe I do.
So agents are my Monday Monsters because they can make us feel inches tall, can twist us in knots and make the experience that much more unpleasant. But what I came away with is that for those agents resistant change, we might get a skewed view of our work. Publishing is changing. Books no longer need to be shelved and labeled in one category. Writers can bring their wildly brilliant stories to life on the pages in any manner they choose. As writers we need to trust our visions and stand up for them. Yes, agents know what sells, but we also know what we like to read, and only our persistence and strong belief in ourselves and our work can take us as far as our imagination.
I hope I remember that as I enter another year of scratching toward that goal.Continue reading
I'm my own worst enemy, my own monster. At seven years old I decided I would be a writer when I grew up, I didn't know about confidence or hard work or that someday I'd have two children that I would be responsible for. Unaware that as I got older, my problems would be bigger and harder I didn't know that we don't always get what we want.
I had two plans; Plan A and Plan B. Plan A was to be just like Stephen King and write for a living. But no one told me that to do that, I should just write. I attempted to start books, but I always fell flat after Chapter 1. Plan B was to work as a writer at a company, any company that needed a writer. That way I was still doing what I wanted and getting paid for it. I did that for a while and then the kids came.
Thinking I always roll with the changes, I got caught up in that life. Running the kids from school to activities to friends. I lived through infertility, a bad pregnancy, the death of a child and eventually a career change. But when my lost decade was over, I woke up and realized it wasn't me. With the lack of confidence to truly be an interior designer and make the jump to my own business, I floated around a mother to older children and a desire to start working again. Feeling a complete and utter failure, heavier than I had ever been and not accomplishing anything in my life, I attended my twentieth class reunion. To make my low self esteem even lower, I met another writer (she wrote non-fiction) and I found myself jealous and angry at myself for allowing my dreams to die and for the first time in ten years, I realized what I was missing.
It was then that I wrote my first book. It wasn't that good, I hadn't any idea of publishing or selling it but it was finished. And in the four years since I first self published that book, I've learned a lot about the whole indie author lifestyle. I wish I knew then what I know now, but rather than regret or dwell on it, I had to move forward.
I don't sell many books. I haven't been pushing them hard because I've rewritten the first book and restructured the series. It's hard for me to hear about everyone else's success. I'm on a roller coaster ride of emotions. I fight back by improving my social media, I'm trying hard to put together a fun and supportive blog. But it's still there, my worst enemy, my monster, myself. Everyday I work to convince myself I'm an author. It's not always easy and I have to work really hard to shut down that voice that tells me I'm a failure. It hangs over me my like a black mist, enveloping me and choking me. And yet, here I am, writing my blog, planning for the re-release of book one and the first release of the new book two. I can't give up because that would me the self doubt and the fear will win.
I'm not sure who I'm doing this for anymore. Sometimes I think I'm doing it for my girls, so they have something to be proud of me for and sometimes I think I'm doing this for me because a seven year old still resides inside of me and she really wants this badly. But mostly I do this for me because I really, really enjoy what I do. I'm hoping someday that I find the audience that can enjoy what I do as well.
I kill my demon with a pen not a sword and someday, I hope to win.
As Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year winds down and we head into the most holy days on the Jewish calendar, I get a chance to breathe. To take time to review my year, what did I do right, what did I do wrong, what can I improve on and what should I continue to do. I might not be the most practicing, but in this I always take the time to remember the holidays and take a moment to think about what it means.
To put it in perspective, I think about the last year. It was a year ago this week when I released She Wulf. I was so full of hope and happiness and I couldn't wait to share my new masterpiece. Within the first two days of my blog tour I received two very harsh reviews, one of which was mean and the third review was merely okay. I was devastated. I could barely talk, because every time I opened my mouth to speak, I burst into tears. I cried for a week.
I could have quit at that moment. Said enough of this, I can't deal with the rejection, with the work, with the ups and downs. If it weren't for three very special women who encouraged me not to quit I just might have. But they for whatever reason, took the time to walk me from the so called ledge and inform me that I have something there. The books, there's something worth working for.
Looking back at the period of time, I still can't believe that it's been a year. Did I learn something from that experience, can I improve on what I've done, make it better? After taking three months off to overcome the biggest set back of my young writing career, I did take stock in my life and what it was that I truly wanted. What I really wanted was to write. Instead of letting it get me down, I made a plan.
Hard work doesn't mean we'll be successful, because mostly it seems to be a lot of luck. But if you don't work for what you want, you most definitely won't get there. My plan became an all encompassing re-write of my first two books. The farther I got into The Day of First Sun, the more I realized what I had done wrong the first time around. Eventually it became a fluid project with a change in the plan. I was going to re-write book one and bring back the book that was originally to be book two. As part of the re-write and restructuring of the series, book one will be renamed, and a new cover designed. I'm starting from scratch.
And yes. It's a lot of work and probably a waste of a lot of money, but if I'm going to put so much work into improving what I had done, shouldn't I give it a fighting chance to do well, leave the baggage behind and move forward?
For the Jewish New Year, I decided that I owe it to myself to grab this fresh start and forget the failures of the past. I can only rely on myself to work my way from my pit of despair. I can only move up and only I can make my success.
I’ve written all my books in the third person, with complete control of the story as the narrator. It’s hard because I really want to share what’s going on in the characters head, but that’s not necessarily the job of a narrator. Besides, what I really want to do is drag you inside my head and show you the story. It's the difference between me telling you what is happening and me letting you the reader experience the story as it happens.
First person allows the reader to know the main character and interpret events and actions similarly to that characters. You will either learn to love them or despise them depending on what actions they take in the framework of the story. Annie’s been living in my head for almost four years, and I desperately want people to love her as much as I do. Some have, others want more and still others just don’t care. That inspires me as a writer to find a new way to get inside the character's head so that you can, if anything, like them. So as I re-write the books, I’ve made one major change. Annie’s going first person. I haven’t made the adjustment to The Day of First Sun or She Wulf yet, because the work involved is a little scary. There's is so much that would need to come out and then re-written back in because it's important to the story. I'm still not sure I'm ready to tackle that project they. But in Heavenly Gifts, I’ve already started, and yes it’s a re-write with twenty-five chapters finished.
The surprising thing for me is how effortless it is to tell the story from Annie’s perspective. It’s almost as if I’m possessed by her as she speaks. And I can let you know from the start how she’s feeling and what’s going on in the chaotic, warm, daring brain of hers. So when it's finally finished, I hope you like her and I hope you like the new view.