Posted in books, creative writing, writing, writing thoughts

The in-between times are weird

desk-2906792It’s been a long time since I haven’t had a project that I was in the middle of and felt pressured to finish.

Don’t get me wrong, I have multiple half-finished books, podcast audio files to edit and upload, marketing stuff I keep meaning to do, and new ideas bouncing around in my head. I just don’t have to do any of them right this second.

For months it’s been one deadline after another, learning a new job, trying and often failing to keep up with things at home and learning to ask for help, and feeling like I’m constantly behind.

It feels good to have wrapped up all my freelance projects and pressing personal projects and feel like I’m getting a handle on my job. What feels weird is not having anyone bombarding me at the moment. I don’t know what to work on next. Part of me wants to just enjoy not having to do anything right this second, even though I know I have a long to-do list waiting for me.

I have ideas for a fifth and final Date Shark book, the next Escaping Fate book, “Oracle Lost,” is outlined and ready to be written, I have a concept for the next Ghost Host book, I have a few chapters written for “Child of Hope” (sequel to the still unpublished “Child of Destruction”), the next Arcane Wielders book is about a 1/4 written,  scenes for the next Eliza Carlisle book are bouncing around in my head, and I have a couple of brand new ideas I think readers will like. What I don’t have is a plan to get through all of that.

This strange in-between feeling is almost overwhelming. To get back into an open series, I need to reread the previous books. To start something new means putting off half-finished projects. To focus on marketing means I’m not writing. It has me at a standstill in some ways.

What next?

If any of my readers have a suggestion on what book they most want to see next, shout it out!

Posted in book covers, books, contemporary romance, cover design, date shark, date shark series, ebooks, editing, publishing, romance, writing

Re-releasing the Date Shark series

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Earlier this year, I got the rights back to my Date Shark series, and I knew it wasn’t going to be as simple as simply republishing them for several reasons.

The editing on the first book had been horrible, and I realized when I started re-editing that the edits I had sent back to the publisher five years ago had been ignored. I’d received multiple complaints about the editing from readers when it first published, but it was out of my hands at that point.

The editing did improve over time as the publisher I was working with upgraded their editing staff, but there were still enough errors remaining that I knew the entire series needed to be re-edited. That process took me almost five months because I didn’t have a lot of spare time after starting a new job at the newspaper and taking on a few too many freelance projects.

I also needed new cover art before I could republish the series. I was happy to redo the first book’s cover, but I had chosen the model art for books two through four, so at least I didn’t have to start completely from scratch. My main challenge was not being able to use the cool shark fin A in the original cover art and trying to find something comparable. My husband helped me choose a new font and rightly steered me away from trying to include any water-like effects and just go with the sketched shark logo instead.

My next challenge was when to re-release each book. I asked other authors and got advice on scheduling, but in the end, it took me so long to format each book that they ended up spacing themselves out well enough, for the most part. Books two and three released within days of each other because, honestly, I was sick of working on them and just wanted to be done.

Going back through these books was actually a fun experience overall. I hadn’t chatted with these characters in almost three years and had forgotten how much I loved them! Sabine and Michael’s story is still my favorite of the series, and rereading the books reminded me that poor Leo never got to have his own story.

I had planned to give Leo a voice as the final book in the series, but because of issues with the publisher and limited writing time back then, I stored the idea away for later. I do have some other projects that need attention, but I want to eventually come back to Leo’s story and finish off the series by giving him his own happy ending.

For now, the series is back up on all the major retailers and ready to meet new readers!

You can find all the links here.

Posted in writing, writing thoughts

My first six months in journalism

Typewriter illustrationThis past February I started a job as an editorial assistant at a local newspaper. I’ve been writing since I was a teen, and got started publishing fiction almost ten years ago, but journalism is a whole new world of writing for me. I’ve learned a lot so far, some writing-related and some just plain interesting.

The AP Stylebook is the end-all be-all for journalists, even though it says not to use the Oxford comma, which drives me batty on a daily basis.

On the rare occasion AP doesn’t have the answer, Miriam-Webster gets the final say. Any questions either of these can’t handle go to David Buck, who knows everything about journalism but is still super nice.

InCopy has this amazing feature that can change capitalization with one click. It’s my favorite thing about it, especially since the program is kind of a pain in the ass in general. I have no idea why Word can’t change capitalization like this. Get on it, developers. Please?

Writing length is measured in inches, not pages or words. I still haven’t figured out the conversion and need to see it visually, but as usual, my articles are often too long!

Storytelling in journalism is a lot different than in fiction. There’s no room for a detailed backstory or well-developed plot. Journalism answers questions and informs more than tells stories most of the time.

Journalists don’t accept change easily. There were audible gasps when AP announced the percent sign could now be used instead of writing it out.

Last but not least, I’ve learned that one of my coworkers carries a cross in her pocket, not because she’s religious, but because you never know when you might run into a vampire.

I still have a ton to learn about journalism, but I’m enjoying the process and the people.

2019-07-15 13.02.03
If you want to see what I’ve been writing, stop by The Durango Herald and The Journal!
Posted in audiobook, books, classic literature, lessons learned, reading, writing

#LessonsLearned: Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 In my continuing quest to read more of the classics, we  listened to Fahrenheit 451 on a summer road trip. My kids are 12 and 15, and they really got into the story. It turned out that my son had to read this in school this year, but for some reason I never had to read this in high school. Instead I was slogging through Great Expectations and The Iliad

We listened to this on Audible, and I have to say, Tim Robbins was the perfect narrator for this book. His quirky style and expressive voice fit very well with Guy Montag’s character and the whole feel of the story. Well done.

Now, on to the lessons learned, because part of the reason I embarked on this quest to read more classics was to understand what made them classics and what these writers did to have their stories stick in the minds of so many people for so long.

Lesson #1 – Side Characters Can Make All The Difference

Fahenheit movieLet me start by saying that after we listened to Fahrenheit 451 we watched the HBO movie version, and I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. No, it was not the original story. That’s okay. BUT…one of the changes we were all most disappointed by was that Guy’s wife Mildred was completely written out of the story.

Mildred was a bizarre character, but that’s why we loved her. The first time you meet Mildred, she’s overdosed on sleeping pills and Guy has to call some version of 911 to get her help. She’s okay by the next day, and when Guy mentions what had happened, she says that she wouldn’t have done something like that and forgets about it. She initially tries to understand Guy’s anguish over the books he’s stolen, but ultimately can’t handle the threat to her worldview and basically loses it and turns on Montag.

While Montag is the character rebelling against society, Mildred is a prefect example of what this society has done to the people within it. She wraps up multiple ideas and messages and concepts in one nutty package and tells the reader so much more than endless pages of explanation ever could. Bradbury “showed” you his cautionary world through an expertly developed side character.

Lesson #2 – You Don’t Have To Shove Your Message Down Readers’ Throats

Fahrenheit 451 has several important themes: the importance of free speech without censorship, the dangers of mindless conformity, how detrimental pleasure seeking and instant gratification can be, and the importance of not being willingly blind and ignorant. It’s a fascinating piece of social commentary, but readers are shown all these themes through characters’ thoughts and actions rather than Bradbury launching into long discussions about philosophy and social theory.

The fast cars that kill so many young people are casually mentioned in a conversation with Clarisse, highlighting how a fanaticism for entertaining and instant gratification has drastically reduce the value of human life. Mildred’s attempted suicide and the general feeling of malaise and depression of the characters shows how willing ignorance and conformity slowly destroys the spirit. Montag is affected by the woman who is burned with her books, but then we learn he’s been stealing and hiding books for a while, showing deep seated internal problems in an outwardly average and law-obeying citizen. Clarisse is an outcast simply because she likes to take walks and observe the world. She’s a threat to society because she makes others think about their own lives and choices.

It’s a classic example of “show don’t tell”, but I point it out because when writing with a clear purpose and message, “telling” often overpowers the “showing” and pushes readers away. Weaving your message into your characters, setting, and storyline will have more impact and stick in readers minds much longer than shouting at them to agree with you.

Fahrenheit 451 Lessons Learned

Posted in books, writing

In some ways I’m like a zombie

Or at least I have been for the past year.

cross in fog at the cemetarySome of my readers probably think I’ve died, or at least been serious maimed and unable to write. I’m not dead. My hands are a bit messed up, but for the most part, still functional.

Where have I been for the last year?

The short version is that I went back to work full-time. The money was great, the physical and psychological stress was not. I was too exhausted after work to focus on writing. Marketing…yeah right. Cleaning the house…bare minimum, and the kids helped a lot. Dinners…my hubby Ryan was a champ and did a ton! Having a few hours in the evening to spend with the Ryan and the kids was about all I could manage.

Zombies go through the motions, are motivated by basic needs, and aren’t capable of much in the way of creativity.

doomsday

Unless you’re R from “Warm Bodies.” But that’s another story…a really good one. You should go watch it if you haven’t.

I’ve recently left my full-time job behind and am now looking for a new opportunity. I’m not sure what will happen at this point, but while I’m in between life moments, I’m trying to catch up on everything that’s been neglected for the last year. Kids. Hubby. House. Friends. Writing. Marketing. Basically, everything.

I’m hopeful 2019 will be a great year. I’m working on freelancing, tutoring, writing more, maybe  starting graduate school, and possibly starting my own business. Scary, but exciting. I’m really blessed to have a husband who’s supportive and understanding. Making a big change is stressful and downright terrifying at times. He’s carrying a huge portion of the load while I reset and figure things out.

I’m hopeful to have more books out next year for my readers who’ve been hanging in there with me, but if I’m slow getting back into things, I hope you’ll all understand. At the very least, “The Catalyst” reboot (post Kindle Worlds) should be ready soon, and I’m almost done with the next Eliza Carlisle book. Those waiting for The Ghost Host #3, it’s next on the list, I promise. I truly appreciate everyone in my life (family and readers) who support me in so many ways.

Thanks for always being there!

Hands Holding Hearts

Posted in books, creative writing, lessons learned, writing, writing advice, writing thoughts, writing tips

Lessons Learned: Life of Pi

I watched the movie first, and really enjoyed it, so I figured I would read the book, since there’s always so much left out of the movie version of any book. This is one of those very rare times where I actually preferred the trimmed down movie version.

life of piFor those who haven’t read or seen Life of Pi, it’s about a young man who survives his ship sinking in the middle of the sea during a journey from India to Canada. He makes it to a life boat, but finds himself in the company of several of the zoo animals his family was transporting…including a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

What I loved about this story was the use of extended metaphor to tell Pi’s story of survival at sea with Richard Parker (I won’t give away what that’s a metaphor for in case you haven’t seen/read it). It’s not a commonly used tactic in modern fiction, and if you’d like an great example of it, read this book. Or watch the movie.

How to write an extended metaphor is not the lesson learned from this book, however.

Not overloading your reader or being condescending to them is the lesson learned.

c4223-robotcartoonInfodumping is often a struggle for writers who do in-depth research for a book. You found out all these awesome things about whatever and now you HAVE TO SHARE THEM ALL! Unless you are writing a non-fiction book about your topic that is meant to give a detailed history of whatever, please, please, please for the love of all things bookish DO NOT vomit up every seemingly fascinating tidbit of research you uncovered while preparing to write your book.

Listening to an audiobook, you can’t really skim, which makes endless amounts of information you’re not particularly interested in even harder to get through. I listened to Life of Pi and simply had to take a break when chapters went on and on about various animals, their habits and traits, mating rituals, etc. I started listening to the book to find out more about Pi’s journey, not to hear a dissertation on animal husbandry.

Focus on what your reader wants out of your story, not just on what you want to tell them.

girl-868784_1920I also struggled to listen at length to the religious discussions, which I usually enjoy quite a bit. I think religion is a fascinating topic and enjoy learning about many different religions. What I didn’t enjoy was, again, too much straight information that took me away from the story, and the sometimes condescending way the information was presented. I don’t hold with any particular religion, but I was still bothered by the sense I got that if a reader didn’t agree with the author’s opinions on eating meat, practicing multiple religions at once, or who or what God or gods might be they were simply wrong or not as smart as the author. I enjoy learning about how others view God, religion, the Universe, etc., but in a way that invites thoughtfulness rather than looking down on others’ beliefs or viewpoints.

Don’t talk down to your reader.

While I enjoyed the story overall, I definitely prefer the movie version, which focused the point of Pi’s journey as a struggle to understand faith and the meaning of life when faced with tragedy. If something you want to put into your book doesn’t add to the story or unnecessarily turns readers off, there’s a good chance it doesn’t need to be there.

Posted in creative writing, writing, writing advice, writing tips

Fiction Vs. Reality…And the Author’s Responsibility

I was going through my list of drafts in my blog roll and found this title but no content. I think there was a specific review or article that inspired this debate, but I can’t remember what it was lol!

Either way, it’s an interesting topic.

Typewriter illustrationSeveral years ago on a car ride my family and I started listening to “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand. I downloaded it from Audible after only a cursory glance at the summary and checking the reviews. So, it wasn’t until several hours into the book that my husband and I both turned to look at each other and asked, “Is this book a true story?”

Why ask that question?

Because it was too unbelievable to be fiction!

Louis Zampirini’s life was quite literally unbelievable in many ways. As history, it’s fascinating and incredible. As fiction, readers would have rolled their eyes at how many dangerous and crazy situations he got into and survived! If you haven’t read the book, please do, you’ll understand so much better what I’m talking about.

So, this question is…where is the line as a fiction author? How do you balance crafting a compelling and engaging story without making it unbelievable? Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years.

1. Characters lose more often than they win.

Depressed woman portrait

Sure, most days in reality are pretty routine, and we all have those days where everything just goes right. Is that interesting to read about? NO. In real life, maybe the boring days and good days are the norm, but the days and weeks we struggle and fail and do stupid things and hurt the people we love are the ones that push us to grow and do better, or maybe to give up and throw our hands in the air. Readers are pulled in by the struggle. They can connect and empathize with lousy days and bruised emotions.

2. There are only so many times you can win or escape.

galaxy questBe mean to your characters all you want. Kill your darlings, right? However, if the end to every situation is a predictable close call or last second escape, readers will not only be annoyed they’ll lose interest. Have you ever watched Tim Allen in “Galaxy Quest”? They parodied this concept beautifully when the alien ship built to model the TV series spaceship is designed to stop its self-destruct sequence at 1 second because “that’s what always happened on the show.” It’s funny because we all now how irritating that “last second” save becomes after a while. While there are rare stories, like Zamperini’s, where people really do beat all the odds and survive the worst situations, most people fail and miss chances and get hurt.

3. Going through traumatic experiences have lasting effects.

unbrokenLouis Zamperini survived an incredible amount of danger and horribleness in his life, BUT there were deep scars left behind because of what he suffered. The last third of the book that deals with the aftermath of being tortured in a Japanese prison camp is very, very hard to listen to because the lasting damage is so real. I’ve read to many novels (especially YA) where the main character has some tragic past or experiences something truly awful…and bounces back like it was nothing. This is not one of those areas where reality needs to be downplayed. Let your characters be as broken as they need to be. Emotional scars are something we all understand. Characters need that element of reality to ring true with readers.

4. Romance has more leeway, use it.

Most people are fairly rational, even when it comes to relationships. Love can conquer all in movies and romance novels, but real people often give up on difficult relationships and choose not to take risks. Now, I’m not saying all romantic stories have to be 100% HEA, “Enchanted” style storylines. What I am saying is that in romance readers  expect a little more of a break from reality. Let your characters make rash decisions or fall too hard too fast. It’s okay if their choices wouldn’t be completely rational or logical in real life. A lot of romance readers want the escapism, the fantasy. Don’t go overboard, but bend reality a little when it enhances the love story.

Enchanted

Balancing fiction and reality is tough, because the line between captivating and irritating a reader can be thin. Stretch reality when it enhances the story, not when you want an easy way out of a situation.