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My Recipe For Not-So-Instant Novel

June 30th, 2015 No comments
Keyboard

Go on, start typing. You know you want to.

You have a bucket list. Don’t deny it. Even if you haven’t written it down or saved it on your phone’s note app, you’ve got a secret list beating away inside of your heart of accomplishments you want to hit before the coffin closes. And, since we’ve already gone this far, you might as well admit that writing a novel is on that list.

A perennial bucket list favorite, writing a novel is a secret dream for a huge portion of our population. Why? Simple. We all have a story to tell. We’ve watched a less than impressive movie or read a mediocre book and thought, I could do so much better! Some of us dream of amazing fantasy tales or a detective novel with a plot so twisty that even the greatest minds won’t see the ending coming. Others of us have experienced incredible events in our own lives or reached a new understanding of life after many knockdowns, and we want to share our unique story with the world.

So, if writing a novel is on your bucket list, then why is that box still unchecked? Why is it clanging around in your head, all sad and haunty, like Marley’s ghost?

You can write your novel.

It’s easy, I swear!

Here is my famous recipe for not-so-instant novel:

Step One: Go to bed one hour earlier each night.

Step Two: Wake up one hour earlier in the morning.

Step Three: Spend that extra hour in the morning planning/writing/editing.

Step Four: Repeat until book is complete.

There, novel in a box. You’re welcome.

The truth is that writing a novel is no different than any other major undertaking. Generally if you set aside a certain amount of time, even just one hour a day, to focus solely on the project, you’ll eventually get it done. Writing a novel isn’t sexy. It’s about creating a habit and putting your butt in the chair over and over again.

In other words, just write. You will never, ever, ever write your novel if you only talk about it.

Here are a few more tips that will help you along your novel-writing way:

  • Outline your novel first so you know where you are going.
  • Take time to develop your characters so you have a good feel for them. That may mean interviewing them, writing a day in their life, or finding a celebrity who they look like. None of this will make it into your novel, but understanding your character will help them come alive.
  • Write your first draft with reckless abandon. Don’t worry about whether it’s good or not. Don’t overthink it. Just write, write, write.
  • Edit the hell out of your book. Unless you’re working on your 30th novel, your first draft will probably be utter crap. That’s fine. If you even created a first draft, you’re amazing. Now, go back and clean it up. Fill in plot holes. Tighten every chapter, paragraph, and sentence. Make sure your characters are consistent. Cut out all the extra stuff your novel doesn’t need.
  • Find other writers to critique your book. You may be able to find a writer’s group in your area. You can certainly find them online. Writer’s Café, Goodreads, Facebook, and LinkedIn are all great places to start looking for critique partners.

When you complete your first book, congratulate yourself. You did the thing that 99% of the population secretly wants to do but never will. Now, throw it in a drawer, forget about it, and start on your next book.

What? Don’t publish? After all that blood, sweat, and tears? Yep, my fingers didn’t stutter on the keyboard. For all but a few writers, their first book is utter swill. Yours probably will be too. That’s because writing is a craft, and getting good at a craft takes a lot of practice. The Mona Lisa wasn’t Leonardo Di Vinci’s first painting.

Trust me, this advice is for your own good. My first book was so terrible, I think it would have melted any Kindle unfortunate enough to download it. It will never see the light of day.

So, please don’t stare wistfully out the window at work and think, if I had more time, I’d write a novel. (Or insert other secret wish). You do have enough time. Anyone can find at least one hour a day. No excuses. Your bucket list is waiting.

Categories: Essay, Writing Tags:

The Challenge of Finding New Voices

May 7th, 2015 No comments
Name Tag

Meeting new characters can be awkward…
Credit: Enokson, Flickr

I started writing Falling, the first book in my Girl With Broken Wings series in 2010. For five years, Maya, Gabe, and Tarren have been a constant presence in my life. They drop by on a regular basis to tell me about their lives, to give me suggestions for the latest novel, and to let me know quite sternly when I’m not listening to them as I write. In other words, we’re kind of besties.

I recently embarked on a new writing project with new characters, and we are definitely not besties yet. In fact, I feel like all of us are at an awkward networking event with our names scrawled out on dopey nametags. I hate these kind of events, so naturally my hand is shaking as I tightly grasp a glass of wine and attempt a winning smile at the stranger in front of me.

When I write in the voices of these new characters, it doesn’t feel right yet. Their words are clunky and unenthusiastic. I wonder if this is normal. I think back to 2010, to that first terrible draft of Falling and try to remember if Maya’s voice came naturally to me. Was Gabe was already 100% Gabe in my mind?

I also wonder about the authors who pump out six books a year. How do they find and become besties with their characters so easily? Are they the rare extrovert who can work a room full of strangers, turning everyone into a treasured friend overnight?

I started writing my new project too soon. My bond with my characters was weak, and I hoped that we would become comfortable as we started this journey together. Instead, I found myself staring blankly at my computer, trying to peck out a story that didn’t want to move. The characters weren’t showing up. They weren’t speaking.

I realized that it was unfair of me to just throw them into the story without really getting to know them first. So now I’m pulling back, tying the story to the dock so it won’t float away while I spend more time with my characters. I am sitting down with each of them now, asking questions, exploring their lives, finding their voice.

It is adding more time to this project, but it is time well spent. Now my new characters and I are starting to chat and laugh. New friendships are blooming. It will be a while until I can share these characters and their story with you, but I hope you’ll have some new literary besties in the future!

Categories: Writing Tags:

New Covers, New Impressions

March 29th, 2015 No comments
Old and new covers for the girl with broken wings series

The Girl With Broken Wings covers got a makeover.

Readers, you may not realize exactly how much we authors think about you. We think about you a lot. Creepy, right? But it’s only because we want you to notice us, read us, love us, and – of course – post a review about our books when you’re done. Feel flattered that we often spend hours, days, or even weeks sweating and struggling to write a book summary that will stop you in your tracks and hook you. That we fight to get into the genre categories you frequent. That we always wonder what you think about our covers.

Covers. Sigh. Perhaps nothing about publishing a book is so tricky as getting the cover right. A bad cover can break even the best book. A cover has a lot of responsibilities. It must capture a reader’s attention in a split second and whisper promises of the story within. It must be strong, powerful, clean, well-balanced, and intriguing.

But here’s the thing…authors aren’t cover designers. A few are, but most of us, including yours truly, haven’t progressed in our artistic integrity beyond stick figures. That means that we often have to hire cover designers for our books and guide them on what we want while restraining ourselves from breathing down their neck so they can do their magic.

Weird how a cover – so influential in the buying process – is so divorced from the actual creation of the book and story itself. Few cover designers read the books they create covers for. Has it ever driven you crazy that a character on the cover looks nothing like the protagonist in the book? Now you know why.

Readers, here’s a little insight into life as an author – most of us are neurotic freaks when it comes to our covers. In our writer’s groups, we constantly ask each other, “What do you think of my cover?” We send each other endless drafts from our designers, trying to tweak shadowing, fonts, the tagline, everything, all for you.

Recently, I decided to update the covers in my Girl With Broken Wings series. I really liked my previous covers. I thought they were artsy, unique, and invocative, but it was time for a change. After studying the other covers in the paranormal genre, I decided that I wanted something darker, edgier. I worked with a new cover designer for three months to re-do all of the covers in my series, and I am thrilled with the results. Every new cover that my designer sent me was like a Christmas present come early.

The result is the banner at the top of this blog, which showcases my old covers and my new covers.

It will be interesting moving forward to see if these covers influence readers or impact my sales. All I can say is that I love their artistry and grittiness, and I think they promise an exciting story within. I hope readers will agree!

Ten Reasons Why Writing and Self-Publishing a Novel is the Coolest Thing I’ve Ever Done

February 22nd, 2015 No comments
young child drawing

My first novel

Like many authors, I knew that I wanted to be a writer from a young age. I wrote “novels” with crayons on big pads of paper and then in dark ink on “secret” notebooks. I even pecked a few shaky stories out on a typewriter as I was growing up. I always had this vision of myself as a writer, even if I wasn’t exactly sure how that was going to happen or how shy little me would ever gather up the courage to put my words out in the world.

Fast forward a decade. I’d spent two years tapping away on my laptop and ended up with a stack of paper filled with my words. This was Falling, the first novel that I felt was actually good.  I spent another year getting close, but not close enough to snagging an agent. At the end of that year with nothing to show for a hundred query letters sent, I was done waiting for validation from someone else. Despite the fact that my heart wanted to jump out of my chest and go running for the hills, I self-published my book and it was the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Here’s why:

1. I am an author!

Writing makes you a writer. Publishing your work and allowing the world to see it makes you an author. When I finally gathered the courage to self-publish, I wondered if I was a “real” author since an agent or a publisher didn’t give my book approval. Over time I’ve realized that validation comes from my readers not agents who only take on a handful of new clients a year in genres they think have the greatest market potential. I write, publish, and sell books. I am an author. Awesome-sauce!

 2. My choice, my way

The beauty of self-publishing is that I get to make every major decision related to my book. I guide my cover artist, I decide which platforms I want to publish on, and I decide how to price my book. Last year after publishing the third book in my new adult paranormal series, Girl With Broken Wings, I decided to make the first book in the series, Falling, free. This is the same book I spent two years writing and another year pitching to half-interested agents. A publisher would never let me give this book away for free, but I love its zero price tag. I am giving a readers a risk-free chance to try my writing style and fall in love with my characters. Thousands of readers have downloaded Falling, so I think it’s working.

 3. I had to face my fears

For a long time I didn’t think my book was good enough unless an agent or publisher ultimately decided to represent it. Several agents showed a lot of interest in Falling, but in the end they passed on it. It felt like they were passing on me as an author. After a year of wasted time when I could have and should have been working on the next book in the series, I realized this was my moment of truth. Was I going to keep waiting for someone else to tell me my writing was good enough, or would I listen to my heart? Self-publishing was scary for me. I was putting my words – a little piece of my soul – out for the universe to judge. What if readers hated my book? What if they laughed at me, skewered my writing, or worse…ignored it completely?

Publishing felt like a big leap, but it was also very freeing. After I published that first novel, I was hooked, and I never looked back.

 4. I made some new besties

Writing is not a solitary endeavor as many people believe it is. Over the last few years, I have built a great team of wonderful people around me. At first they were critique partners, beta readers, fellow authors asking questions on forums, and members of my author group. Over time, they became friends. I entrust them with my newborn novels and listen carefully to their feedback. I care about their progress and celebrate their writing success as if it were my own.

5. I got in shape

Sometimes the things you learn as you write change your life. When I first started working on my novel Falling, I needed my vigilante characters to be in fantastic shape. I did a lot of research on the most effective fighting methods and fitness routines and decided my characters trained in Krav Maga for fighting prowess and did CrossFit for overall fitness. At the time, I was plateauing in my own gym routine. After a lifetime of being an athlete, I was losing my edge. I did a search and found a local CrossFit “box” near me. It was love at first nauseatingly difficult workout. I’ve been doing CrossFit for over four years now, and I’ve never been in better shape.

 6. I’m actually making money!

The first month Amazon deposited a royalty payment in my business checking account was one of the most amazing and coolest moments of my life. It didn’t matter that the amount was about $50. I was making money…from writing books. It was a dream come true! What was even more amazing is that the small payments kept coming month after month, which meant that people who were not my family members and friends were paying money to read my book. I still don’t make enough to be a full time writer yet, but my royalties are growing, and I feel so proud that I am earning money for my writing and that readers are voting for my skill as an author with their dollars. Readers have millions of books to choose from, as well as endless movies, television shows and video games. Every download I get and every dollar I make is a personal victory.

7. My friends think it’s pretty awesome that I’m an author

Your real friends, the ones who truly want you to be happy and succeed in life, will think it’s really, really cool that you have written books. They will beg to read them and generously write reviews. They will call you up and want to talk about the characters and chide you for making them cry. In essence, they will understand how much writing means to you and they will celebrate you for completing each novel and publishing. It’s the same way you will support your friends as they train for a marathon, start a new relationship, or decide to throw caution to the wind and start their own business. You recognize how much this new goal means to them and you feel excited for them as they get closer and closer to realizing their dreams. It is an amazing feeling knowing your friends support your endeavors and that they think you are awesome for writing and publishing books even if you never become the next Stephen King.

8I’ve received fan mail

Nothing can describe the feeling of receiving a note from a complete stranger that says, “I loved your book! When is the next one coming out?” No matter how much I told myself that I thought my book was well-written and worth publishing…. No matter how much my critique partners and beta readers told me it was ready….I don’t think I truly believed I had written something good until I heard from my first fan. Every single interaction with a happy reader is a treasure to me. Like I’ve mentioned, the royalties of my books don’t pay my mortgage yet, but every time I get a fan letter, I feel renewed. My purpose and my motivation to keep writing spikes to the moon. I keep every fan letter. They are my inspiration and my remedy for my worst moments of doubt.

9. I found the best office mate in the world

Black bunny with white nose

Avalon

In my novel, Falling, one of my characters, Gabe, adopts a pet bunny he names Sir Hopsalot. When I first wrote this scene, I had to spend a few hours researching rabbits as pets. I found out that they could be litter box trained and that many owners allowed their bunnies to roam free around the house.

Personally, I come from a long line of crazy cat people. One night a few years ago, I felt that genetic stirring in my soul to get a pet. Unfortunately, at the time my roommate was allergic to cats and our small apartment wasn’t a good environment for a dog.

That’s when it hit me – a bunny! I quickly logged onto the local Humane Society’s website, and there I found a picture of an adorable black bunny with a white star on his nose named Avalon. It was love at first sight.

Sure, Avalon occasionally eats my shoes…while they’re on my feet, and he hasn’t figured out that digging in the carpet won’t accomplish anything, but he is an amazing and wonderful office mate. I love that he is a fun and frolicking part of my life…all thanks to my character Gabe and his fictional pet, Sir Hopsalot.

10. I get to do it all over again

I have to admit that after I self-published for the first time, I got a little addicted. I realized that publishing a novel wouldn’t kill me. In fact, it made me stronger and more confident. I was on my right path, and I felt that deep in my bones. My mind is always buzzing with stories, and I feel an incredible rush when I write tight and exciting scenes that challenge my characters physically and emotionally. Since I published Falling, I’ve written two more books and two novellas in the Girl with Broken Wings series. I’ve also just completed the first draft of the fourth novel in the series. I’ve also published a compilation of short, humorous vampire stories in a series called, The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles. I love writing. It nourishes my soul. Thanks to self-publishing, I don’t have to wait for someone else’s approval. I can just keep writing, keep publishing, and keep loving every day I get to be an author.

Losing It – A Writer’s Computer Crash Nightmare

January 13th, 2015 No comments
Laptop

A reenactment of Lancelot’s final day. (Credit: David King, Flickr)

On Saturday 12/20/14, I achieved one of my big goals for the year – I finished the first draft of the fourth novel in my Girl With Broken Wings Series, Leaping. It was messy, pitted with problems, and filled with enough plot holes to give Swiss cheese a run for its money.

In other words, it was a beautiful, healthy, perfect first draft. Full of promise and potential. I had plans for that draft. I would carefully guide and sculpt it until it finally matured into a strong, confident novel and that could go out into the world and make an impression.

You’d think that the very first thing I would do after this ecstatic moment would be to back up my computer or immediately throw my baby onto the cloud so she’d never be lost.

I didn’t.

Sometimes I’m a moron.

Instead, I hopped in my car, picked my sister up from the airport, and bragged about my new little baby all the way back home. Little did I know that the gods of hubris were waiting and watching. I imagine a good cop, bad cop scenario here. The mean God of Hubris was probably throwing handfuls of popcorn in his mouth, and chuckling, “I bet her eyes bug out and she starts crying.”

The good God of Hubris would sigh and say, “She still has time to back up. Why doesn’t she just back up?”

***

The meltdown happened on the morning of Christmas Eve. The day before, my curmudgeonly laptop Lancelot was grumbling along as usual, almost daring anyone to mock his missing question mark key. The next morning he was gone. Just like that. I pressed his start button, and all I got was a Toshiba screen that never transitioned into my desktop.

“Come on Lancelot, speak to me!” I cried, gripping his edges. “Come back to me Lance. Please, just open your writing file!”

But it was not to be. Lancelot’s hard drive had given out during the night. I suppose it was a peaceful death, but still a shock to me. Lancelot and I had shared so much together…including my completed first draft of Leaping.

It now hung in the balance. Did Lancelot take it to his grave, or could it be saved?

The timing was really bad. I spent Christmas Eve trying uselessly to fix Lancelot while fulfilling my family obligations to show up for dinner and take pictures, and chauffeur my sister around town. By the time it really dawned on me that Lancelot wasn’t coming back, all the tech stores were closed…and would stay close the next day, Christmas.

***

That night, I lay in bed and let the panic wash over me. Children all over the world were waiting to hear footsteps on their roof or the jingle of a sleigh bell, and all I could think was – Can I really rewrite this book from scratch?

A book is more than the sum of its words and pages. A writer puts a piece of their heart into every book. Hours of writing aren’t just time. They’re creative energy. Each word is just perfect in that moment even if it will be changed or scrubbed later.

I could never get those exact words back. That unique, magical combination of spirit. Even the thought of starting over again exhausted me to my core.

I could do it, I thought. I must do it. My readers deserved a completed series, and I deserved it to. I’ve spent five years writing The Girl With Broken Wings Series, and the thought of never finishing was simply not an option.

But I knew that I would need to take a break before I could rebuild. Maybe start a new series from one of the many ideas constantly clanging in my head for attention. I needed to forget my previous words so that when I started on Leaping again I could write it fresh, instead of trying to capture an echo.

That Christmas, I spent the whole day with my family. It was joyful and uplifting, and I took the time to recognize how lucky I was to be supported and loved…but I didn’t unwrap the thing I really wanted.

***

I did get Leaping back, along with almost all of my other files. It wasn’t Santa Clause or even the Geek Squad guy who made this post-Christmas miracle happen. (In fact, Geek Squad guy basically rammed a router through my gut by telling me the prognosis for rescuing anything off the hard drive was poor…and super expensive.) It was my kind-hearted, techie friend Ben who rescued Leaping and a lot of other really important files from computer file purgatory.

Ben isn’t a guy who will paint his face in camo and go jumping out of a helicopter to rescue hostages, but he’s definitely a hero to me. He saved something that I would have never been able to remake the same way.

This incident has not only taught me the value of backing up and why it’s important to surround yourself with smart, loyal people. The real possibility of losing my manuscript showed me how intangible writing is. I never really appreciated how valuable and magical words can be until I almost lost them.

And did I mention backing up? I am back-up queen now.

Why I Wrote A Series About A Cranky, Old, Unattractive Vampire — Behind The Scenes With The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles

September 17th, 2014 No comments
Nathaniel, The Vampire's Housekeeper Chronicles

Not so sparkly, but I love Nathaniel anyway.

I am getting ready to compile all the short stories in my The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles series into a single collection, and I thought readers might be interested to learn where the idea for this series came from. I’ll ruin the surprise – it was Twilight. But here’s the full story…

Vampires had it good for a couple of centuries. They inspired fear, pants wetting, and lots of running around and screaming like a boob. They were cruel, deliciously vicious, and powerful…and then Twilight came along.

With this single book, vampires left the realm of nightmares and became squarely lodged into the stuff of tween girl daydreams. CW’s Vampire Diaries has only thrown gasoline onto the tragic fire of hunky, sensitive, and people-eating free vampire mythology.

My sister and I email each other back and forth every day, because apparently email is our crack. About two years ago, my sister headlined an email with this complaint: “I hate that vampires are all total wusses now!”

My response was, “If you were over 100 years old, why in the world would you want to spend your immortal afterlife in high school?”

How could a 100+ year-old vampire not get bored out of his mind and fed up with all the stupid dramatics of high school? There are obvious physical reasons why a vampire might be attracted to a high school girl, but what could they possibly talk about? [Insert joke about how talking isn’t necessary for certain activities].

“And how would a vampire even be able to keep up with the times? I just learned how to use Siri, and I was born in the last century,” I wrote to my sister. “How could someone who grew up with steam engines and telegraphs understand iTunes, texting, and the resurgence of Weird Al Yankovic?”

Thus an idea was born…an idea to write about a vampire who was not handsome, not sparkly, not fascinated by the vacant minds of high school girls, and who definitely could not flawlessly keep up with the rapid pace of technological innovation.

For the next couple of days, I started each email to my sister with an ongoing story of a luckless college grad who finds herself out of a job and lacking in useful job skills. When she goes to an employment agency for help, she is sent on an interview for a housekeeping position at a haunted mansion where her perspective boss…isn’t exactly a vegetarian.

Deidre and Nathaniel were born. That first story was completely random, a little bit of cheek that stemmed from my desire to write a different type of vampire. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the story fulfilled another need I have always wanted to explore as a writer – writing a different type of protagonist.

Deidre is so far from the wispy, damsel-in-distress Bella, that she might as well live on a totally different planet. Deidre is overweight, self-conscious, funny, loyal, and pragmatic. She sees the world with a wry sense of humor and a certain stoic acceptance of her messy and chaotic existence.

That first story was such fun to write that I kept the narrative going into a second chapter, which would eventually become The Vampire Hunter Comes to Call. About the time I finished up the third installment (eventually Duel with the Werefrog), I realized that I really liked Nathaniel, Deidre, Dex, and Sloppy Joe (who was originally named High Man until my sister pointed out the similarity between his name and a certain part of the female anatomy).

The stories needed a lot of polish from their original email serial form, but with a little elbow grease, Deidre’s world started to come to life (or afterlife). I loved writing the first six stories in this series. With each story, Deidre’s world got a little bigger and more complex. Over the course of the series, Drew has turned into a reoccurring character, as have Nathaniel’s bingo buddies.  I’m excited to introduce a very intriguing character – Hunter Gulliver Graves – in the novella that completes the first volume of this series. (Apprenticeship With A Vampire is now available!) I love all the silly and improbable situations Deidre finds herself in and all the jokes the ghosts play on her. However, I believe each story also contains a little bit of Deidre wisdom tucked beneath the top layer of humor. I hope readers get this and enjoy a story that can be both silly and a tiny bit serious at the same time.

The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles, Volume One will launch on October 1st, so if you haven’t tried the series yet, get ready for this very non-Twilight vampire series.

Why I Am Giving Away Over Two Years Of My Effort For Free

August 23rd, 2014 No comments
Cover of Falling, Girl With Broken Wings

This Baby Is Now Free!

A lot of writers will go into dramatics about how hard it is to write a novel. When they get really amped up on metaphor crack, they reel off the bodily fluids that went into creating the novel, including blood, sweat, tears, manna of the soul, etc…

The truth is that writing isn’t always hard. Some writers can dash off ten books a year with nary a speck of sweat on their upper lip. Other writers scrape and strive and snivel for ten years to eke out that magical manuscript. It all depends on the writer and the circumstance.

My first novel, FALLING, took me over two years to write. Scratch that. It took me approximately six months to write and then about triple that time to edit it into shape. This novel was hard. The first usually is. I started it with no plan about how it was going to end, no character sketches, no brilliant plot twist looming in the wings. All I had was a scene seared into my brain of a girl standing over the bed of her sleeping brother doing everything she could not to reach out and drain his energy.

From that dubious starting point, FALLING slowly formed…and reformed…and reformed as I fought the plot, the chapters, and the words into something worth reading. I remember writing and rewriting the same sentence, quibbling over specific words, changing chapter formats, and begging more and more people to read it and give me feedback.

No blood was spilled writing this novel, but at times I felt like I was leaving a piece of my soul on the pages.

This week, I set FALLING for free on Amazon. This is not a short-term promotion. FALLING will stay free, at least for the time being.

I thought long and hard about this move. Something deep inside of me rebelled against the idea of giving away FALLING and all the hours, all that mental energy, away for nothing. That part of me asked, “Do you value your writing, your talent, and hundreds of hours of your time so little that you have to give your book away just to get people to read it?”

But in the end, I decided to go with free for one specific reason. I want people to read my books. In today’s world, attention is a rare commodity and Amazon is stuffed to the gills with books for readers to choose from. Each available book requires hours of a reader’s time. That’s a big investment aside from the book’s cost. No wonder so many readers stick with their favorite authors or only choose proven best-sellers, those “hot” titles that all their friends and Oprah are talking about.

I’ve decided that my primary goal as a writer is to introduce people to my books. Making a profit is secondary. To forward this goal, I need to lower the barriers – lower the risk – as much possible for the reader. I’ve already written what I believe is an engaging, touching, amusing, and high quality book. I’ve also tried hard to give readers a true taste of the book in the description, which includes caveats about the book’s violence and language to help a reader make an informed purchase decision. The final thing I can do was eliminate any financial risk.

Of course, I have a second agenda. My hope is that a reader will see FALLING as a low-risk time investment, read the book, love it, and then purchase the following books in the series. If this happens, then FALLING will act as a hook, the freebie that sucks readers into the series and hopefully turns them into fans for life.

At the very least, I can say that I’ve done what I can to invite readers into the series.

Visit Amazon, Kobo, or Smashwords to download FALLING for free. Enjoy!

Fun With Overlapping Narratives

August 2nd, 2014 No comments

Every story presents its unique challenges. Sometimes the plot hits a brick wall and I stare helplessly at my computer, at that last lonely sentence waiting for a mate. Other times the characters pull against their leashes, and we have to trek down mysterious paths together.

My current project, RECOVERING, led me to a different puzzle. This novella overlaps the first half of my novel RISING and is written from the foul-mouthed point of view of my character Gabe. The whole reason that Gabe insisted I write the novella in the first place is that he only makes a short cameo in the first half of RISING.

Roughly 90% of his novella covers new ground, but several early chapters in the novella play out events that are featured in RISING when Maya briefly returns home and interacts with Gabe. In essence I had to write the same scenes over that already exist from Maya’s point of view – same action, same dialogue – but infuse it with Gabe’s perspective.

Sounds easy, right?

Not exactly. To get the scenes just right, I had to carefully reconstruct them from the chapters of RISING, reading and re-reading those chapters as if they were under a microscope.

When I wrote the same scenes for RECOVERING, I had to force myself out of Maya’s guilt and concern and put myself in Gabe’s shoes to show his loneliness and self-loathing. I had to write from his sense of betrayal, shame, and anger using the same dialogue and the same scene structure that already existed.

This little experiment forced me to focus more on Gabe’s inner thoughts to make the scenes seem fresh and also to change the pacing of the scenes so that it wasn’t a rote rehearsal of the scenes found in RISING. For example, Gabe often summarizes longer bits of dialogue that Maya’s narrative in RISING recalls in full. Gabe’s focus will also emphasize different parts of the scene. He doesn’t notice the sad state of the house as much as Maya does. He also thinks a lot about his mother and sister, people Maya never met.

On the technical side, I ended up putting the text of RISING on one monitor and the overlapping text of RECOVERING on the other to make sure every word of dialogue matched up, that the timing of events was accurate, and that Gabe reacted outwardly in the way Maya observed in RISING.

I hope the result is a fresh take on Maya and Gabe’s interactions that doesn’t feel stale or repetitive. I have to believe that Gabe is such a charmer that his perspective can put a new twinkle on everything!

How do you think I did? HERE is a chapter from RISING and an overlapping chapter from RECOVERING. Enjoy the sneak peek of RECOVERING!

Getting Gabe Right

July 12th, 2014 No comments

Okay, here’s my problem. Gabe Fox has a really dirty mouth. And a dirty mind. And, basically, he’s a boy.

Gabe and I are pretty much opposites in just about everything. I’m a relatively prim and proper person. Sexual innuendo makes my face go all watermelon-colored. Any talk of bodily functions has me laughing awkwardly or quickly exiting the conversation. If I cuss, it’s usually only because I’ve walked into a wall or door (happens more than I liked to admit).

But I love writing about Gabe, dirty mouth and all. He is one of the main characters in my GIRL WITH BROKEN WINGS series. Here’s the thing about Gabe – he has a huge heart, can spit out a ribald joke in even the most dire of circumstances, and is fiercely loyal to his family. He is the light within the murky and often sad world in which his small family operates.

Earlier this year, I was thrilled to complete RISING, the biggest, most complex book yet in the GIRL WITH BROKEN WINGS series. As with the previous two books and novella in the series, it is written from the point of view of Maya, Gabe’s younger sister. There are so many things I like about this book (and I hope you do too), but something about the book always bugged me.

Not enough Gabe (or cow bell).

I’m going to carefully tiptoe around some spoilers here and just say that Gabe is left behind from the book’s main mission and only gets a brief cameo in the first half of the book. It’s the way things had to be from a plot standpoint, but it doesn’t mean I had to like it.

Gabe didn’t like it either.

When I took long car rides or walks around my neighborhood he kept pestering me about it. I started to listen and discovered that he hadn’t been exactly sitting around twiddling his thumbs during the time Maya and Tarren were hunting a new and dangerous angel threat in Peoria, Illinois.

Gabe wanted me to write his side of the story.

We argued. I kept telling him that I needed to start on book four in the series. More than anything I wondered how I could possibly write an entire novella in Gabe’s voice, in his sarcastic, confident, dirty, hyper-masculine voice.

Gabe was adamant, and the boy can be very persuasive when he wants to be. I buckled like a sandcastle hit by a tsunami.

So, instead of writing book four like I’m supposed to, I am currently in the midst of writing a Gabe novella tentatively called RECOVERING. It has plenty of action, keeping in line with the other stories of the series, but RECOVERING is also really unique in that it will offer a look into Gabe’s personal life outside of the mission.

This novella is proving to be a unique challenge for me, mostly because Gabe is just so…Gabe. He cusses way too much and thinks about sex in ways that Maya would never even consider. Imagine how often my face impersonates a tomato while I write.

I’ve never felt as unsure about a work as this novella. After the second draft I printed out the whole thing and read it out loud. Over and over again I wrote the same thing in the margins: “More Gabe”, meaning that the perspective was drifting back into my voice, not Gabe’s voice. I caught myself over and over again speaking too formally, too politely. Gabe doesn’t do polite. He is candid to the point where the TMI line was three exits ago. He just doesn’t give a flying f…fruit about propriety.

This novella is taking much longer to write and edit than I anticipated, and I’m not sure if readers of the series will even like it. Still, I’m glad I wrote it. Not only was it the right thing to do for Gabe, but it really pushed me (and continues to push me) as a writer to embrace a different voice and to understand Gabe on a much deeper level.

He and I are still polar opposites, but I love him like he was my own brother, and I’m glad that I can give him a voice and his own story. If all goes according to plan, keep a lookout for RECOVERING on Amazon and other online booksellers in September. Or you can sign up for my email list and receive a notice when it hits the market.

The Dread Monster Comes Again – The Fear Of Starting Something New

July 5th, 2014 No comments
Young girl, scared

This is kind of what I feel like every time I start writing a new book.

The laptop is open in front of me, the page white and fresh. It’s time to start the first draft of the fourth book in my Girl With Broken Wings series. I want to feel excited. I want to feel plump with possibility like a perfectly ripe grape that bursts between your teeth. I want my fingers to be humming with anticipation.

But what I feel is a deep, dark, shapeless dread.

The old worries whisper through my mind. I won’t be able to finish this book. My writing will come out stale and mildewed on the page. My characters will spout vapid dialogue and be as colorful, as deep as shadows.

It doesn’t matter that these worries are pointless. I’ve already completed three full books in the series as well as one novella. A second novella is on its second draft. I know I can finish this book. I know my talent won’t shrivel up and fade like some mystical, short-lived flower.

So why is it so hard to get started on this book and all the previous books? Why are my first, faltering words always overshadowed by a big, snarling Dread Monster?

The more I think about this, the more I realize that the Dread Monster has always been stalking at my heels. I remember my stomach flip flopping, my throat tight on the ride over to gymnastic meets when I was ten. Later, in high school, my whole body would be tight with fear as the last hour of the day ticked down before a tennis match. We had matches three or four times a week during tennis season and that I enthusiastically made the team all four years, and yet I could never quell the Dread Monster. I could never run fast enough to leave him behind or find a sword to pierce his hide.

Is it just nervousness about starting something new? I don’t think so.

Nervousness is that fluttery feeling on a first date when you don’t know what to do with your hands and words become slippery like butter.

This is dread. A dismal sense of emotional pain, of unstoppable worry and anxiety. It is a growling, slobbery monster that eats light, goodness, and positive mantras for breakfast.

Maybe you’ve felt this way too. Maybe not, and I’m just a freak who gets off on self-sabotage. I wonder if there are other people out there with monsters walking behind them. Maybe some of you have found ways of facing your Dread Monster, of starting new things without worries or an endless pit of doubt opening up beneath you. I have not, but I have found a weapon that works against my Dread Monster.

I ignore him.

I write.

When I look at the white page, while the worries spin so fast in my brain they make me dizzy, I put my fingers on the keys and make them move. The words come, slow at first but then faster and easier. I’ll hit hard parts, and my writing will be as graceful, as smooth as running through sand, but I will buff and polish these areas to a high shine in the editing process. The dread will shrink little by litter and the love of writing, which has always been inside of me, will begin to softly beat inside of me like a second heart.

One day I hope that I can approach a new book, a new project, a competition, or a big life choice with enthusiasm, eagerness, and confidence. But until then I’ll elbow past my Dread Monster and start writing, one word at a time.