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The Quit Debate

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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.

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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.

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Time Travel

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My kid did something that I had wanted to do for years and it only took her a month to do it. She decided to watch Doctor Who, all seven seasons of the reboot. I never thought there was time, nor did I realize every episode was On Demand. So the kid got me hooked on yet another show which gets me thinking about time travel. The idea of being able to go anywhere in time and in the case of traveling with the TARDIS, anywhere in space as well.

If time were no longer a linear concept, would you take advantage of it? Where would you go? I might be intrigued and head to the past, my past specifically and visit my seven-year old self. I have so much wisdom I'd like to share with myself. Though changing my past my make my present unrecognizable. Maybe I should go and experience history, the greatest moments when events changed the world.

Since I have yet to see my future self in my present timeline, I can assume time travel hasn't been invented or perfected in the future. So it remains a science fiction concept and storyline. I can live with that and I can suspend my disbelief that time travel is plausible as long as the explanation makes sense. Think of Terminator. I can believe that Sarah Connor's protector came from the future and became John Connor's father. Because in the version of time travel I like to think is possible you can't go back to the past if you hadn't been there when the past was actually the present. Think of it this way, if you meet your future self today, because that future self came back to the past, you will be able to do it in the future because you came to this point in the past. If that didn't make sense than maybe this will, you won't be able to go to your past because you didn't meet yourself in the past already. And of course since I don't know you, maybe you have. In that case, I'd be very impressed and a little jealous.

When writing a series, like Annie and Cham I'm always dreaming of unique storylines that could hold the reader's attention. And in the middle of falling asleep on the couch and watching a documentary about Beowulf, I began imagining Annie in the past. More specifically, Annie as Beowulf, saving the world from something scary. She Wulf became a story of Annie's adventures in ancient England during the time of the Vikings. A chance for her to save the world from an indestructible demon, and in return, watch the demon's extinction. And when things didn't go Annie's way, she still remained hopeful. With the demon no longer in the present world, she knew she could resolve the situation and return home because she already had done it in the past. It was just now in her present that she actually remembers experiencing it.

I'm glad my daughter decided to watch Doctor Who. I enjoy the endless possibilities as a watcher, reader and writer. If you could would you travel to the past? Where would you go and who would you meet? Just remember, don't touch anything, talk to anyone or change history. You might not recognize where you return home to.



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Third to First

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.


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Third Time’s a Charm

frontcover51.bmpI took a perfectly acceptable four star reviewed book and rewrote it. Most people heard I was going to do this and questioned my sanity. Why would you do this? Isn't that a lot of work?

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.



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