Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Day 92 - Overdoing It

When I first got into the writing world for the sake of publishing I was given advice by several different people about the best ways to build an audience. Almost all of the suggestions involved sing social media platforms as a base. The problem was I was told in order to be successful I basically had to be a part of at least half a dozen different platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Tumblr, have a blog, create a website, and on and on without end. I can barely keep up with what I have which is only four of those.

I did finally create a website, writingforces.com. It is basic, I can admit that. I am still learning and will hopefully have some merchandise and a section for pictures soon but for now it is something at least. It took me over a year to learn to just do the simple things that are on it. I am proud of the fact I was able to figure it out and that I forced myself to sit down and finally accomplish that task that hung over my head for months.

I have had this blog for a few years though anyone that follows it knows just how inconsistent I can be when something else distracts me, or I distract myself. I have been doing my best to be more on top of things and I have only missed about a week and a half in the past ninety days or so. For me that is a huge improvement. I am hoping the push recently to commit to getting posts up everyday will remain as more of a habit instead of just lasting during this one focused effort but only time will tell.

I have been a part of Facebook for nearly a decade so that part was easier. I did, however, have to learn how to create and manage a page along with sharing links, adding my website and setting up events. Other than sharing the links for my daily blog posts I am still not great at posting there. I don't have Instagram because I take so few pictures but I am trying to include more and add them on my Facebook author page when I remember to take them. Mostly it is from events right now but with time I am trying to improve.

I added Twitter about three years ago but in all honesty I forget it is there half the time unless I get notification of a new follower. I don't participate in the paying for followers thing so I am just under 2500 but I am ok with that. Like everything else, there is a learning curve. I am not the best student but I try my best. What I find difficult to believe is that there are people that honestly believe you have to be a part of all of them in order to be successful.

If I were to post teasers and promos (which I would first have to create) in ten to fifteen groups on Facebook per day along with make two to three tweets per day plus interact with people on both sites for a few minutes per group in order to be an active participant, then write a blog post and share that around, and update my author page everyday I would spend most of my free time chained to my phone or computer. Now think about how much time it would take to do all of that, plus adding other sites you would have to interact and share on. You could easily spend hours just updating and sharing on social media and never even get a chance to actually write. Then of course there is editing, researching, beta reading, more editing, cover design and, oh yeah, let's not forget a lot of us have day jobs and families.

Being able to interact with your readers is a key to being successful. Not letting yourself get burnt out because you are trying to do so much you lose sight of the reason you are doing it in the first place is even more important. Balance is key. I am still learning to balance my ambition and need for focus with my obligations in order to find peace in every realm. Part of that, for me though, is not overdoing it.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Day 91 - Memorial Day

Today is not about writing for me. While I am always thinking about my books and the course of my next storyline, I would like to take today to reflect upon some of the people that have meant the world to me. It is a time of remembrance after all.

The first person that comes to mind is, of course, my boyfriend. Marine veteran SSG Steven F. Boyd is the man I share my life with. He is caring, compassionate and takes the time to give back to his community. Ever since he got his motorcycle last year he has been a part of a group called the Patriot Guard Riders who escort and lay to rest veterans with no families to claim them. He is also taking part in the annual Run For The Wall ride across the country. He is riding in honor of those that can't and I am proud to stand by him.

The second person I want to shine a light on was my grandfather John Fournier. My father's father, he served in the United States Army and was awarded the Purple Heart. I was very close with him when I was young and was only in middle school when he passed away. Cancer stole him but he has never left my heart. I was never privy to much of his military service but like Steve, He maintained his military style right up until his dying day, hair cut and all. I miss him deeply. When he passed the Purple heart went to my dad then on to my brother when he left us ten years ago. My brother, knowing how much it meant, has given the Purple Heart back to me.

The last person I want to mention is my friend Dan Conlon. Last year I posted a thank you to those that served our country both living and dead. He immediately chimed in to educate me and all others on the difference between Memorial Day and Veteran's Day. I know the difference but I wanted to say thank you to both groups and simply explained that. Dan, a Navy veteran, was also a table games dealer at the casino I work at for my day job. He struggled everyday both physically and emotionally. Eventually the battle was too much and sadly a few months ago my fellow dealer and my friend took his life.

We take a moment today to remember those we lost on the battlefields but there are battles happening right here as well. I am grateful I got to know him, that I was close with my grandpa, and that I have Steve in my life. These are just a few of the incredible people from the armed services I want to honor and thank today. Two are gone and one stands by me, all have been important in my life. I love you all. Thank you for your service!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Day 90 - Rekindling The Fire

Between playing tour guide the next few days for a great friend in town as well as working the day job for a few of those days I am doing my best to keep my motivation going for The Last Piece, and Fish so I can spend Thursday making real progress of both. I am so excited to have projects I can visualize. I can see the covers, I can feel the energy from the characters. It is a feeling I haven't had for quite some time.

I still feel that overwhelming pressure when it comes to marketing but I have decided to make a dedicated effort between the blogs and newsletters I follow that teach topics like that as well as the books I own on the subject to treat the summer like a college term and make myself a much stronger student on marketing and book sales. I will be updating my website and maintaining things better (I hope). And now I finally have books that are begging to be written.

Along with learning the online side of things i am going to be doing my best to find more live shows to be a part of and planning a two week long, 15+ stop mini book tour for next year that will have at least five books and a limited amount of my merchandise available. It is a long planning process but I am finally feeling that push again.

I know when the feeling came on that perhaps I needed a break and it is something I am still dealing with. When I had to give up my beloved Rescue Me books it broke my heart. I am still in mourning for them but I have a new idea cooking that I am considering for a revising instead of stepping away completely. I will not be doing the anthology thing because I have unfortunately seen a very ugly side of people in the process of those books so I am developing a book idea in partnership with my boyfriend and his photographer skills. Those books will again benefit animals but I am working on a new style of promotion and partnership.

Sometimes it can be frustrating to step back from something you love but when it comes to the creative world, the last thing you can do is force it. If I can stay on track and keep this new fire in my heart, the rest of the year will be very productive and I can't wait!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Day 89 - Physical Labor

It has been almost a week since I was able to get a blog post up. I have had a friend visiting and was working so I didn't have any time I was attached to my computer. I was given the opportunity recently to submit a pitch that included brief descriptions of a main and up to three supporting characters, a synopsis no more than three paragraphs and my bio as an author. It was to one of the Big 5 major publishers so I knew my shorter novellas would never get much interest so I skipped those right away. I could have picked Voices In My Head, Sharing Strength, or Breath but instead I decided to send off an idea that was not even fully realized just for the sale of getting feedback on my pitch abilities, or lack thereof.

Not only did I get feedback on the pitch, they actually liked the idea for the story. Knowing it wasn't completed (or even started to be honest) they gave me a submission deadline later on this summer. They thought the idea was original and could have appeal in several markets. I was shocked and thrilled to get the news. Then I began to realize just how much I didn't know about the book. The idea was only a random thought I had a few years ago that never completely left my mind. It is a murder mystery with an unexpected perspective that I wanted to showcase and now I will get to however I had a laundry list of things I needed to figure out before I could even begin. Yikes!

After spending the better part of a day having a staring contest with the blank screen on my computer I decided I needed some distance. Most writers I know would have simply worked on a different project, I most definitely have others to write. Instead I opted for the ignore my computer and focus on physical labor answer to my problem instead. I spent several hours working things and letting my mind drift as I pushed forward on a purely physical endeavor. Believe it or not, it worked. I had breakthroughs while standing out in the sun doing my best to complete a task. I learned character names as I shopped for supplies. I found my opening scene and the cover idea while I was gulping water to stay hydrated.

I came in yesterday to take a break from my physical project and managed to get an entire list of notes on the story. I am so excited to be writing this book, now I even have something more concrete to focus on. Physical labor may not work for everyone but I am going to keep that handy little secret in my back pocket for the next time I have something holding me back and need to have that magical epiphany. Plus, I got a good workout at the same time, bonus!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Day 83 - Original Ideas

Back in January when I attended the writer's conference, I attended with the hope of submitting and getting feedback on my books Voices In My Head and Sharing Strength. I sent the first ten pages of each off to perspective agents and editors with breath held and fingers crossed. I tossed and turned the night before my meetings and went in to each doing my best to hide the severe stomach pain and turmoil in my mind. After I sat down with the agents and was feeling thoroughly lost and rejected I went to lunch and had a wonderful lunch with a different agent / editor-in-chief.

That night during the networking dinner I again sat with that same man and we discussed both my books. He showed interest in Voices seeing as how he works with an imprint that represents darker stories. He did ask about Sharing Strength though. We talked about my connection to the issues of PTSD and I shared part of the inspiration behind the story with him as well as a few other authors sitting at the table with me. I could see the other writers were politely listening but also getting a little bummed out by the heavy topic of PTSD.

When we left the networking event and went to the bar in the hotel to continue chatting I decided to lighten the mood by telling silly dealer stories. After half a dozen anecdotes everyone began to relax and laugh. It didn't take long before they were hanging on my every word and telling me that was the book I should be telling. I even had an agent request to read the manuscript regardless of the fact I insisted it was not actually a book.

Along the same lines, a few months ago I came across a notice in a writer's group on Facebook inviting authors to submit a synopsis and set of character bios to a publisher. If they liked the idea they would assign a contact and deadline. If you met that deadline and got an edited draft to your contact person you would be given consideration for publication but at least feedback if not a contract. They were also going to be giving feedback on the pitches in order to help authors improve their pitching and query skills.

I took advantage of the opportunity to pitch a story I have not even truly begun to plot out. I had a truly random idea inspired by a conversation with my mom about people like my cousin that are treated differently by society simply because of the way they behave. I thought about writing a short story, perhaps a novel, with a character inspired by him where he could be the hero. I wanted to show that just because people are different or have a disability does not make them bad or worthless. I knew the story idea was completely out in left field but all I was looking for was the feedback on the pitch anyway. Instead I got a response with a contact and deadline saying the idea was unique and they were extremely interested. I am now deep in research mode to learn more about my hero and make sure I properly represent him.

As a writer I spend hours, days, even weeks trying to come up with an idea that is original. I want to share my own perspectives on the world and bring people into a world they may not be well connected with. However it seems like my best ideas come when I am not trying at all. When I simply step back and just let the world happen I find the stories that make other sit up and take notice. I am looking forward to sharing what will hopefully be a great story as I work simultaneously to write Fish and now work to create The Last Piece.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Day 82 - Recovery

Yesterday when I should have been up writing my Day 81 post I was getting some much needed sleep. For those that follow this blog periodically you know my boyfriend and support system is making a cross-country motorcycle trip in honor of those who are unable to make the trip themselves. A few nights ago he had a small setback and found himself feeling lost. While I have never made a trip like the one he is on I have definitely felt lost and needed help form those around me.

He has since rejoined his group and I couldn't be more proud of what he is doing and the fact that he accepted assistance and returned even though it was difficult. What he is doing is not writing related in any way yet as I see him moving forward on his journey it inspires me to keep achieving new levels in my writing passion as well. The books I am writing are emotional and have times of darkness I wish I didn't have to write. But they are important to the story and to reaching the final destiny of each character.

No matter what you are doing in life there will be things that happen you wish you could hit fast forward and avoid. Whether you are writing a novel, making a long trip or just dealing with day to day activities you will always have to handle things that come up and may be unpleasant. As the old saying goes however, it isn't if you fall down it's that you get back up. Everyone has setbacks. Everyone has struggles. Stepping back to reanalyze or readjust isn't what counts, you just have to find your inner strength and move forward again.

Recovering from an issue says far more than the fact the issue arose in the first place. It is important to know you are not alone when you struggle. We all need that support from time to time. I am thrilled to be here when my boyfriend needs me and he has sat by my side more times than I can count when I have fallen down. We have been together seven years and in that time I have grown more, learned more and healed more than I ever dreamed possible. My other friends have pushed me on but he  and my mom have been the largest reasons I have come as far as I have. I cannot thank either of them enough for helping me anytime I need a little recovery.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Day 80 - Who's To Blame

Yesterday the world lost an icon when Chris Cornell passed away. I heard about his death first as breaking news while I watched my local news network early in the morning. While I was not a fan of Soundgarden or Audioslave personally, I recognize him for the talent and leader of the grunge movement he was. As the day went on, there were interviews with people that knew him as well as fans all coming out to share their experiences and memories. Updates to the news rolled in periodically first announcing where and that it was ruled a suicide then finally details to fill the gaps.

This morning I woke up to see announcements of blame. Medication that had been prescribed for him had apparently turned into a threat instead of being an assistance. There are pictures and videos to demonstrate how much trouble he was having at the end and the blame on the medication to say he had no idea what he was doing when he hung himself. I am not here to say I have any idea what happened in the case of Chris Cornell but it seems like a relevant subject as I am covering the subject of PTSD in Sharing Strength. Suicide is a very real outcome for many suffering from the disorder.

The reason I wanted to mention it is because I have noticed a pattern whenever someone dies especially from suicide. We, those of the human race that do not feel the need to end our lives, cannot understand why someone would take such a drastic step. Yesterday it was Chris Cornell, before that we lost Robin Williams and there have been many others. We search for answers when many times there is no one to blame.

Depression, trauma, stress, medication, bullying, there are multiple reasons someone could feel the need to end things. For me it is not as shocking that the person gave in to that dark and desperate feeling but the desperation felt by those looking for a quick reason to accuse instead of accepting that we may never truly understand. The pain inside someone can simply be overwhelming. Sometimes there is a reason, other times it is all inside them. We cannot explain everything all the time. As the next few days unfold and the psychology of a man clearly in pain, whether internally or medically induced, is examined and analyzed over and over, it will be the psychology and desperation of those doing the analysis I will be watching. Partially for research but also as someone that considered ending things myself once. It makes me wonder what excuses people would have made for me.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Day 79 - Prequel

When I began working on Sharing Strength I was focused exclusively on that story. I knew it would be different than Never Give Up when it came to main characters because first and foremost there are six of them. Never Give Up centers around Akaylia with supporting characters coming and going as the story unfolds. Sharing Strength has five characters that all play central roles and one that is just as important but stands in the background slightly more often. I had no idea the life that book would take on when I first began the story.

Sharing Strength was conceptualized in the early months of 2014. It did not become a reality, or at least a full first draft, until September of last year. It took a great deal of time but even more emotion to finish the story and the characters took their toll on me. A year earlier, in October of 2015, I released the novella Survivor, a book that tells the back story of Jasmine Byers. She is a domestic abuse relationship victim and it gives her terrible PTSD. She is one of the people in Sharing Strength. It was the first time I wrote a prequel of any kind and knowing where it was heading in Sharing Strength made it difficult. Not that I would be giving away her final fate in any way but knowing how much to share, what was foreshadowing, and when to stop all proved to be harder than I originally thought.

The same goes for Fish. Usually I have that one final ending scene in my mind for a book that I think will make the greatest impact on the reader but with Crash, Combat, and of course Fish, I have the next chapter of their lives to keep in mind. It is also entirely possible that as I write the prequels I will learn more about the characters and have to modify them in Sharing Strength when I go back to edit. I had intended to do the first round of edits as I was creating the novella series but I am now considering holding off for the time being in order to make sure there are no major plot changes that arise from the current projects.

It is a new experience all together to learn more about characters I thought I knew well. Just the other day as I was writing the opening of Fish I had one of the writer epiphanies I live for. I knew what was coming but I had no idea who was responsible for the situation or the aftermath. Now that I know, there is a whole extra level of emotion I need to taper in as I write the scenes that are coming next. It will make the story more interesting and for that I am grateful but I feel bad that I have to traumatize the poor girl more than I had assumed I would. Anyone that has read Survivor knows the books will be on the darker side since they are leading to a book about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but the fact that they all are in the next book should at least give some hope.

I am just now fully understanding how emotional this book is going to be for me as a writer. Survivor was based on my story of abuse and telling it was both therapeutic as well as awful for me. Rachel Morris is not living the same life I did but like all my characters I can see a piece of myself in her so I know there will come a moment I feel that connection which will break my heart, at least temporarily. I just hope she can forgive me.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Day 78 - Creative Surroundings

I saw a post by a fellow author about how "Art-Friendly" the state of Colorado is. She feels that moving there was a great choice creatively as well as for her family. The pictures of the scenery are certainly breathtaking and I have heard the number of festivals and events celebrating the arts are larger in Colorado than many surrounding states but it made me think about my own choices. I have moved a couple times and traveled more in search of that one place or person or thing that makes me feel complete. Ultimately I have had to sit down and realize, it was within me all along.

When I traveled to Japan, both in high school and even more significantly about nine years ago, I absorbed a culture and language I find both challenging and beautiful. Taking the time to learn the train system, risking rides I wasn't totally sure about the destination of and walking along streets with names I couldn't pronounce gave me experiences I can never replace nor repeat. I loved every second of those trips.

Volunteering in Australia was life altering. It was a time in my life I needed a dramatic change and it led to a heartbreaking moment that caused me to fully face myself and find a way to be alright with who I am. I hated that feeling. I also wouldn't change it for anything in the world. The same can be said for my brief stint in St. Louis, MO. I truly disliked living there. My roommate was a nightmare and I escaped every chance I got but it is also the place I first began writing again.

Finally I got to Vegas. After living much of my life in the green lands of Michigan, surrounded by the lakes and kissed by the sun within the smells of fresh cut grass, pine trees and natural woodlands how could I possibly find inspiration in the constant brown of the desert? The fact of the matter is I found more than just inspiration, I found myself. I spent most of my life feeling suffocated and like a puzzle piece that accidentally got put away in the wrong box. When I made it to Vegas I was scared but I was also home. There are more than just shades of brown in the desert. I have found the entire spectrum here. I brought with me all of the places I traveled and the experiences I have had. I kept in my heart the friendships that have helped me and opened my life to finding new moments I could share with the world. Colorado may be the artistic haven some seek and so may Michigan or Japan. The most important thing I ever discovered was that my perfect and completing place, person and thing I spent so long searching for is right inside me and always will be.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Day 77 - My Turn To Show Support

For those that read this on a semi-regular basis, you know about my boyfriend. He is a kind, supportive, and occasionally tough guy that stands behind me with a hand on my back to hold me up, and sometimes, push me forward. He is the one that got me to really work hard on my personal weight loss goals and has gone to the doctor more time than I can count when my medical issues overwhelmed me. He has given input on my cover art and even suggested ways to set my table during book shows. He designed my promotional signs and cards plus acted as the emcee for the release event for my book Survivor.

Today he is doing something amazing of his own and I wanted to take some time and share with you all how incredible it is. Almost a year ago he purchased a motorcycle. It wasn't a midlife crisis or a random need for speed and the open road. He bought it so he could take part in events for fallen soldiers through groups like the Patriot Guard Riders. He helps escort deceased military men and women to their final resting place as well as provide escort and protection for people taking part in events like the Honor Ride bicycle ride. I didn't think I could be more proud.

Then came his latest adventure, which officially kicks off tomorrow morning. He is participating for the first time in the annual Run For The Wall. It's a trip that crosses the country from Ontario California all the way to the War Memorial in Washington D.C. They ride in honor and remembrance of those unable to make the ride themselves. Along with taking part in such a moving and honorable venture, he took it a step further and brought along symbolic keychains made to represent his brother-in-law, his father and my grandfather. Three branches of the military flying in the wind as he rides down the road.

To say I am proud of him is an understatement. The depth of his commitment and service is unmatched in anyone I have ever met. He is thoughtful, loving and moved himself by the event he is becoming a part of. He is a tremendous member of the community of bikers and what they are doing over the next couple of weeks is nothing short of amazing. I am here to support him in everything he does and just wanted to share with the world a small peek into a man that is my own inspiration.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Day 76 - Starting Over

So today I have 2 blog posts because as tired as I was at the end of the day yesterday I forgot to hit publish. Even so I am excited to be working on a project that inspires me so I wanted to make sure I got the chance to share. There are actually three books that are pressing me for attention and I have mentioned them all before. Crash, Combat, and Fish all are books like Survivor that tell the "how I got here" story of a character or characters from my full length novel Sharing Strength.

Combat I will need to wait a little on because there is a decent amount of research to be done in order to get the storyline correct. Fish is, in part, based on a true story just like Survivor though not to the same extent. Crash is completely fictional and will mostly require sitting down for the meditation and connection to Craig, the main character. Because I do not have a personal and emotional tie to Crash I had intended to start with that book. I was having trouble starting, which is common for me, however so I decided to do some physical labor in an effort to clear my mind earlier today.

I mean after all, I am a writer with three books to write, a day off from my regular job and no one around to distract me, of course it was the perfect time to go out and landscape my backyard. As I was busy shoveling rocks and trying not to swallow blowing dirt I tried to open my mind up to that beginning scene of Crash. I couldn't picture it. No matter how hard I focused, or didn't focus as the case may be, I just wasn't getting a connection to the story. Instead I kept seeing a swimming pool in my mind's eye. I kept seeing Fish.

Rachel, the main character of Fish is a co-captain of her high school swim team. She is state ranked and is said to move through the water like a natural born fish. She is quiet and a good, church-going girl from an extremely religious family in a small town in the middle of Illinois. All she wants to do is swim, spend time with her friends and make her family proud. The problem is that by trying to do the right thing one night she ends up in a terrible situation and has to deal with the fall out. Will her family and friends support her and help her through the difficult times ahead or is fish going to drown in a situation she never intended to be in?

Day 75 - Working With An Issue

There is an understanding in any job that you will not get along with everyone. Sometimes it is your boss or it can be someone that is a vendor for your company. Sometimes you're the boss and the person you clash with is a subordinate. Regardless of who it is the worst thing that can happen is letting that personal concern become a professional disaster.

Authors are, in a large way, solo employees but there are many that we come into contact with during the course of writing and publication of even just one of our books. We may sit for hours at a time in the solitude of our minds but depending on your proficiency with various aspects of the process you will still utilize the expertise of beta readers, editors, cover artists, and a formatter. There are also bloggers and marketing PAs you might get in contact with. Not to mention the people that will help you out and you will have to work hand in hand with if you do any online or live events for the release and follow up when the book is published.

We also network with other authors. It is one of the best and yet most difficult things we do in promotion of our work. Some of my closest friends have come from these networking moments and I have learned more than I ever thought possible. The difficult part comes when an author acts unprofessionally or does something that makes you lose respect for them or their work. It would be easy to say just walk away or work with someone new but what if you already have a connection or partnership with them? What if have or had plans to work on something together but they do not hold up their end of the work? How do you move forward when you are stuck waiting on them?

What do you do if the person you have worked with is acting in a way that not only represents them as unprofessional but because you are or have been connected with them it brings your reputation down as well? Again, it seems easy to say not to get mixed up with people like that but it can take a long time to find out they will behave that way. Protecting yourself is vital in any profession. It is heartbreaking to have to make the choice between someone you have worked with and moving forward without them but if you do it in a professional and unemotionally charged way hopefully you can both keep your reputations in tact and simply go on to bigger and better things separately.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Day 74 - Spoilers

Earlier this week a friend and fellow author released her latest book. I caught glimpses of the release party through posts on social media and it was heartwarming to see her so excited. She shared with her friends and fans overtime the rating changed on Amazon or a review was posted by someone that had read an advanced copy. She thanked people all day as they continued to show her love and support. It was the kind of release day that makes others like myself feel motivated to get to work on our latest projects.

Then, just as she was flying high and preparing for an event that is actually being held a few hours from now, another review was posted that took the wind right out of her. The person posted a review, which as writers we crave, but they gave away a major plot point from the book essentially ruining it for anyone that read through the reviews after them. I have not read the review since I have her book and still want to read it so I do not know if the review was good or bad but either way it is a terrible thing to have happen.

I have followed her posts since the incident and she is heartbroken. What many do not realize is that authors spend hours of everyday, most days of the week and evens weeks that blend into months on one book. From the initial conception of the idea to plotting, if that is your style, on to the actual writing, editing and beta reading, more editing, artwork design, formatting and publishing then finally marketing the book it takes a very long time. We rarely have a lot of physical evidence to show for a long day's work but our aching fingers from typing, the empty cups of coffee, the tension headache growing in our shoulders, neck and mind are all evidence to us. We are a community and when one of us feels that pain all of us can relate.

I do not know if the person that left the review did it to purposely hurt the author. I hope not. I do know what kind of effect it had though. We love our readers and we live for honest reviews but please, if you don't like a book, tell us why without destroying the story for the next reader to come along. If you do like the book, let the world know but keep the secrets so others can decide for themselves. Writers exist for the readers that support us, all we ask is you allow other readers to make up their own minds instead of giving everything away in spoilers.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Day 73 - Jack Of All Trades

Yesterday I mentioned that writers have confusing and, at times concerning, browser histories. Because in the course of writing one, or many, books covering what could be multiple genres things come up we need to know but might be a topic we are not currently  familiar with. I saw a meme that captured that theme quite well that had a writer in front of a laptop while another person stood behind the author and asked "When did you become an expert on wood carving?" to which the writer responded "Last night". It is not uncommon for us to learn something new and have that subject come up repeatedly for the next few projects until we find something new to strike our fancy.

When I began writing Sharing Strength, and then Survivor, I found out very quickly that Jasmine Byers was a photography enthusiast. She is the main character of Survivor and a major part of Sharing Strength. Her photography plays a big role in both books but there was just one small problem for me, I knew nothing about it. I can barely take a picture on my camera phone that comes out clear, let alone intelligently discuss composition and lighting. There is a moment in Survivor when Jasmine talked about the meaning behind the pictures in a competition she was entering and I understood the symbolism but even as I wrote the scene I found myself taking notes on parts of the conversation to look up and make sure I was using the correct terminology.

Subjects like that come up over and over in writing but there is another form of the "Jack of all trades" that many writers strive to be as well, especially in the Indie world. They want to be able to do everything when it comes to designing and publishing their books. From cover design and graphic art to formatting and marketing there are so many areas that are important to know. When it comes to this part of the "Jack of all trades" it si more vital that we become a more permanent expert than the temporary and fleeting version on the book topics.

I may not remember everything I read about photography but if I ever figure out how to format a book instead of hiring someone to do it for me it will be something I remember forever. The same goes with editing. The first time I handed a manuscript off for editing I got it back with notes about the number of "ands" and commas I used plus the fact I tend to mix up "wonder" and "wander" even though I know the difference. When I write I confuse words like that and when I read through for my own editing I didn't catch them. Now I do.

We learn two sets of information. One we use briefly and one we build upon to improve our craft. I enjoy both parts but I am thrilled every chance I get to put a new tool in my writer kit. It is a life long learning process but at least it is one I look forward to everyday.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Day 72 - Browser History

Writing is a strange beast. Some of us write in one specific genre but many of us reach out to explore new areas as time goes on. Regardless of which version of writing we prefer, eventually we will have to look something up. It might be a name or a recipe for a romantic meal. It could be a small beachside city in a foreign country or how long it takes to strangle a person with fishing line. When you write in multiple genres it can be every one of those and more.

The fact is writers have a browser history that would make most people nervous. We look things up for the sake of making our writing more accurate and colorful. We want people to know we did the research for your books and if someone happens to work in a particular field, such as a doctor reading a medical thriller, we don't want to lose them because something we wrote was off and ruined the story for them.

We speak to people to gain information. We read books and watch shows with similar subjects but in the internet age we spend more time looking things up online than most other areas for our research. It can be the largest and most readily accessible database for our needs. This could easily disturb someone that were to sit down at our computer and end up reading through a list of recently searched topics though.

I happen to write in several genres. Just today I looked up information on the Salem Witch Trials, crime statistics in Las Vegas, calories burned in a Zumba class and bank robbery statistics in the United States. Those are all for different books and I was taking notes in multiple files simultaneously but if someone was to go through it they would most likely think I was schizophrenic or sociopathic. Instead I am just an author.

Part of being a writer is being a slight jack of all trades and when you come across a topic you haven't learned yet you have to look it up. We are not crazy, at least not in a dangerous way. We are writers and want to enjoy our time as we live vicariously through the eyes and lives of our characters.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Day 71 - Writers Groups

When I went to the writer's conference back in January there was a discussion on different ways to improve your skills. Topics such as classes, writer's groups and critique groups were brought up.  All of these have their pros and cons. Having another set of people that can read your work then give feedback is a great way to learn things you may not have noticed on your own.

They can act as beta readers to help you find plot holes or do simple editing for typos. They can be very helpful giving different perspectives on what you wrote. When you are creating the story there is a narrative most likely running through your head so it is possible when you are typing that you could miss something or forget to include a transition making a scene too abrupt without realizing you are doing it.

However there are things to keep in mind if you choose to listen to those in any critique group. They come to the mission of reading your work with their own biases and perspectives so they may want to change things that would make the story more pleasing to their particular tastes instead of allowing it to be the one you wanted to tell. You need to have the open mind to allow the constructive criticism while having the backbone to defend the story you wanted to write. There is a major difference between accepting suggestions and bending over backward to please everyone else.

It can also be scary to put your work into the hands of strangers. Even to be the one reading someone else's work can be difficult. You want to give more than "I like it" or "It just needs some work". You want to be specific just as you hope people will be honest and specific about your writing. Yet when you poured hours and weeks into committing the book to paper it can seem impossible to put it into the hands of someone that might tear it apart and tell you they don't like it. It can seem personal when it is only meant to help you improve.

I am a member of a few writer's groups and I have attended classes and workshops in the past. It is still a learning curve for me and I rarely provide anything of my own to read. I do my best to keep the same open mind when reading other's stories as I would about listening to feedback on my own. I recommend trying to find one or two that makes you feel comfortable while gently pushing you past your comfort zone. The world it opens up can be incredible and inspiring.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Day 70 - Short Stories

A few nights ago I was sitting in my garage while my boyfriend and a buddy of his worked on his motorcycle. They were shaving things down, screwing things in and getting last minute touches done for a long road trip the two of them are taking along with hundreds of other riders. His buddy brought his wife along so she was sitting with me and chatting while the guys did their work. After a little while she started asking me about writing.

She asked when I began and what the first thing I remember writing was. She inquired about my writing education and my inspiration to become a writer in the first place. I smiled and quoted a poem I read back when I was in first grade called This Is My Rock by poet David McCord.

This Is My Rock

This is my rock
And here I run
To steal the secret of the sun

This is my rock
And here come I
Before the night has swept the sky

This is my rock
This is the place
I meet the evening face to face

That was the first thing I ever read that I could visualize without illustrations. It opened my imagination and allowed me to create the picture in my mind. I fell in love immediately. Shortly thereafter I began attempting my own poetry and short stories. Both I have sadly let fall by the wayside but I know in my heart they were my beginning.

In recent years I have focused almost entirely on my novels but after entering a short story contest earlier this year I remembered the joy and challenge it can be to create something so much more simple. Short stories are an art and being able to take the reader on a journey with only a few thousand words, to impart the visual and the emotion of the characters as well as their settings with a paragraph instead of a chapter is a talent many do not possess. I love the long, in depth stories I write but I think I am going to be working hard to practice more short stories and submit them for publication to broaden my writing horizons in the next year or so.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Day 69 - Meditation

When I am working on a new idea I usually get that incredible time right at the beginning where I am introduced to the idea and the main characters. It can be deep and intense where I feel completely possessed by the person or people the story is about or it can be a sweeping time, encompassing everything and giving a broad overview of the book itself. Either way it is one of my favorite things because I get to jump into this whole new world.

Crash is going to be different in a way because I have already met Craig Stillwell. He appears in Sharing Strength and so as I was beginning that story we were introduced. I know him yet I need to know more. The broad strokes of his art have been placed but I am now working to understand the color palette, the fine lines and details and most importantly, the feeling behind the painting. He is a masterpiece waiting to be released, it is just a matter of finding where to start.

When I get to the point of identifying and focusing on details I find I struggle. It is then that I need to take a step back and meditate. I have different methods of doing so but the most important part is that I open my mind to what the character or characters may have to share with me. Knowing who I am writing about and what their goals are is vital to helping the reader connect with the story.

For me meditation can be found many ways. I have gone for drives and had those "ah ha" moments while watching the mile markers passing by. Hikes have been another effective way to reach out mentally while putting my body to work in other ways. Yoga is one of my favorite meditations because as I am allowing my instructor to lead me through the positions I find my mind making the most fascinating discoveries.

If all of these methods fail I put on the playlist I have created for the book and sit alone in a room. I close my eyes to let the music take control. Some people I know will sit in lotus or a similar position. I tend to lie down instead and take deep relaxing breathes. It is almost as though I am going to sleep. I may or may not mouth the words of the songs, the important part is the connection. As soon as I lose myself in the music my mind can open up and talk to the characters. I usually do not get to that point until I am halfway through a book but as I mentioned I have already written a good deal about Craig in Sharing Strength. I am beginning a new book while experiencing the same thing as being in the middle of the story. After I workout this afternoon it looks like I will be taking the time to venture deeper into the subconscious world to talk to Craig and get to know more about his story.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Day 68 - Social Media

Writing related or not writing related, social media is a large and time consuming part of my life some days. Honestly, I have no idea how to utilize it effectively for the sake of book promotion though I would happily sit down and take notes from anyone out there that does. I use it to interact with friends from around the world and to stay up to date with what is happening in the lives of my friends and family. There are do many other things happening though and I feel attires I become disenfranchised with the entire experience.

Politics is a given on social media. No matter who you are for or against, what you support and what you hope never to talk about again, politics is blasted into you from every angle on social media. I can see pros and cons on almost every subject and there are times I see someone posting a blatantly one-sided comment and I want to point out the other half of the argument. Even if I agree with their side in some respect I want to make them stop, or just get under their skin a little as they are doing to others. For the most part I am able to refrain from playing devil's advocate but I do have to distance myself on occasion in order to maintain that.

Then there are the people that have become online friends over time because we had something in common but for one reason or another I have lost respect for them or that momentary thing we have in common has dissolved. I know there are those out there that feel that way about me as well and I understand that. I can be difficult, stubborn and self-centered like most people at one time or another. I may even get to that point more often and if I have caused anyone to feel that way I apologize. My problem is that some of those people I have gone ahead and unfriended or unfollowed but there are some that it would be more complicated to do so than to simply tolerate them. This makes logging on slightly more frustrating.

My question to anyone else out there that experiences times like this is how do you stay focused and use the promotional side of social media without being drawn down the path of landmines and emotional triggers? What can you do to still enjoy the interactions without unfriending or unfollowing three quarters of the people you see listed everyday? How do you make social media a helpful tool in your business and present a professional face to the world when half the time you just want to close your account and scream at the world to grow up? I need to find that balance because I am nearing the complete radio silence stage and would like to not have to start all over when I feel more prepared to return. Any help is appreciated.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Day 67 - Research

Since I have decided to to put Breathe back on the shelf I have been thinking about the series of novellas that will be coming this year instead. Sharing Strength came from my heart and is a topic I care about very deeply however there are aspects that I am not as personally familiar with unfortunately. The story is all about a support group for people with post traumatic stress disorder. I do know the syndrome and many of the effects people can experience when dealing with it.

The novellas that have come out of Sharing Strength are the back stories of the members of the support group and while none of those stories are easy to write, they all have their own reasons. Survivor was already written and released. It was by the far the most difficult one for me personally because it was based on a true story and knowing how painful it was made everyday of writing hurt. I cried repeatedly as I shared the story. I went to yoga daily for the sake of keeping myself calm as I designed the cover. I busied myself as much as possible planning the release party so I didn't have t feel anything else. It was difficult on every level and then some.

Fish will be frustrating for a similar reason. While the book will not be anywhere near as closely based in reality as Survivor was, it is inspired by true events which are difficult to think about let alone share with the world. For those that have had similar experiences it can be painful to even think about but that is one of the reasons it is important to write the book. There are so many elements that begin with what the main character Rachel must endure in Fish and then what progresses to Sharing Strength as the aftermath unfolds.

While I am looking forward to writing all of the stories, and fearing the emotions involved, there will be no book that needs more research than Combat. Because there are two characters of Sharing Strength that appear in Combat I need to make sure I cover both sides of the story completely. It will most likely be the longest of the novellas as well. As the name would imply however, the book is set in a time and location of war. Brian and Kyle are bets friends and brothers in arms. They develop their particular issues while fighting for their country as well as fighting to survive one another and the world around them. I have personal experiences that reflect in Survivor and Fish but I have never been in war.

Crash will also need some looking into. I do not have children so I cannot relate to the concerns of parents. I also have never been through the PTSD symptoms that Craig deals with. He takes a very difficult fall after his incident and when he slips down the psychological rabbit hole his family is there to add both help and hurt on top of his already fragile mindset. I am lucky enough to have a friend that is willing to sit down with me and let me ask questions but I know how emotional that will likely be for him and his wife. I am looking forward to making progress but there will definitely be hours of watching documentaries, reading about people's experiences and sitting down with people that have firsthand knowledge in all of these situations.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Day 66 - Tough Choices

A little over a week ago I had a dream about attending a book show. In the dream I was standing at my table and had brought me personal table with me to make an L shape display. On the side I had put up my book rack to show all the books I had for sale. On the top row I had copies of Never Give Up and Breathe. The next row help copies of Sharing Strength and then below that were the series of novellas that accompany Sharing Strength. I could see Combat, Crash, Fish, Survivor and there was one more I knew was there but I couldn't see it.

I saw the covers of Crash, Combat and Fish sitting right next to Survivor. The font on the titles, the artwork on the harsh white backgrounds, I could see everything. I have tossed around the idea of writing those shorter stories for quite some time to go with Sharing Strength when it is finally released but I had never officially decided. The books I could see are the stories of characters Rachel (Fish), Craig (Crash), and Brian & Kyle (Combat). There are two more characters in Sharing Strength. Jasmine is the main character of Survivor which has already been released and Dr. Kurtsman is the book on the rack I was unable to see.

I am not completely sure he would actually have his own book anyway. He is a major part of Sharing Strength but the hard fact is he is the most minor of all the characters. He has the least amount of backstory of everyone and that may be why I was unable to see the cover and title of his book in the dream. I know dream was on the top row the same way I knew Dr. Kurtsman's book was there however I was unable to see that cover as well. I have tried for years to imagine the cover, the synopsis and the tagline of Breathe but nothing has ever come to mind. It was the plan to finish the rewrite by the end of June but once again I am shelving the project. I am instead making the choice to go ahead with the novellas.

I hate to give up on a book, especially one I have put so much effort into. I don't think any author likes the idea of walking away from a finished book. The problem is sometimes there are more problems than we can fix at that moment. After the five years Breathe sat in the back of my mind I was able to make several changes in order to improve the story. Unfortunately I am still not connecting with it so I need to let it go back to the corner until it is ready to play nice. It is time for me to move forward with Sharing Strength and get to work on the stories of Jasmine's so to be costars. They are emotional stories but ones I can feel in my soul. I am excited to see where they end up.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Day 65 - Tag Lines

When you see an advertisement for a movie, check out a promotional poster, or hear a commercial there is usually a one or two line phrase designed to stick with you and make you remember the movie until you finally go see it. The same happens for books. Sometimes the line is printed on the cover as a way to draw the reader in while other times it can be found as a title line for the synopsis on the back cover.

My book Survivor which was released back in October of 2015 has the tagline on the back. At the top of the synopsis is the line A Nightmare Hidden In A Dream. I have bookmarks that I include where people pick up the book at shows that also has that same tagline along with colors that match the cover of the book.

A tagline can be a great marketing tool if it is catchy and memorable enough but I have struggled for years to come up with the perfect line for my books. Never Give Up has a tagline of "Life can change in the blink of an eye". It is a wonderful line for the book and definitely apt but I didn't come up with it. A friend helped me with that one. Survivor I came up with on my own but once again as I prepare to submit and / or publish the next few books I am once again struggling to come up with lines for the next few projects.

For Breathe I am still doing my best to understand exactly what genre the story even is, let alone a line to perfectly capture the essence of the book. The Voices books are thrillers but because it is a four book series and only two of them are fully written it is difficult to envision the line that would best envelop the books or even just start it off properly. Sharing Strength, and the novellas that will complete the series now to be written hand in hand with Survivor, is another book I have only the vaguest of ideas of for the tagline.

I will figure out the lines as I finish the books (I hope) but I encourage everyone to look a little closer at the lines on book covers and movie posters. See if when you read the book or see the movie that line helps to truly bring the essence of the story to life.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Day 64 - Allowing Emotions

For any that that follows me on Twitter or Facebook you will know I recently said goodbye to the charity series Rescue Me to deal with some issues. I have handed the reigns over to someone I worked with before so she can create her own series and hopefully continue to help animals. The process has been a whirlwind of emotions and that is putting it lightly. There are so many things that have been going through my mind but I was shocked when I got emotional reading a book that I had nothing to do with.

Rescue Me reached beyond its pages to inspire other series and animal charities to benefit from them. I knew that but I hadn't read any of them. The one I know best was created through a group called Writerpunk and is a group of Punk writers, Steampunk, Diesel Punk, Cyber Punk and so on that have a series benefiting PAWS, an organization in Washington State. One of the leaders of this series is my good friend Jeffrey Cook. He and I had discussed Rescue Me before he took on the project and I am thrilled to see what a success his books have become. Rescue Me never had the reach his series does.

The first book in his series is Poe Goes Punk, the second is Shakespeare. I do not own the Poe book but I recently got Shakespeare and intended to begin reading it last week. I found I was unable to even get past the introduction to the book without feeling the tears come on. Of course the Intro mentions the PAWS organization and I am happy to help support them but it unexpectedly brought up more feelings of loss from the Rescue Me books. My heart ached as I did my best to read the biographies of the authors involved but when I reached the beginning of the first story I had to put the book down. It was overwhelming.

I have moved on to a book by Terry Pratchett for the time being until I feel emotionally able to read a book inspired by my now dead project. Rescue Me is a series I was incredibly proud of but had difficulties it could not overcome. Sometimes I just need to step back. I knew I was stepping back from the series and handing over control but I had no idea I would have to step away entirely from anything even remote related to it. Even in the fictional and literary worlds we have loss that as writers we need to deal with. This is one that will apparently take me longer than expected.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Day 63 - To Do List

It is so difficult to stick to a schedule, especially for writing. At least for me it is. I have so many projects that compete for my time and focus that I had to create a to do list. I wanted to set up a way to keep myself on track so I complete my books, get them edited and sent out to beta readers then off to either be submitted or published. It is a busy list that involves three to four full novels every year between writing and editing. There is also some reading for the sake of relaxing or research that has been built into my list.

For this year if I can stick to the plan I will complete the editing and rewrites on three full novels. Breathe, Sharing Strength and a project I am cowriting with a friend are all on the agenda plus reading in the murder mystery genre because my Nanowrimo project this year will be the first in a mystery series. Because I have never written in that genre before it is vital I get a feel for what I am jumping into. Most of this wouldn't be a problem if I didn't have a day job, a family to attend to and the physical challenges I take part in and train for as well. However those are the reason I have the list in the first place.

Assuming I am able to accomplish the list for this year, Next year is almost entirely dedicated to my horror series. There are four books in that series and while the first two are drafted and the third and fourth are outlined I still have to be able to sit down and force the characters to cooperate. Nano for next year will also probably be a murder mystery in that particular series unless I need that time to officially complete my horror books. Those will also be going out to betas then submitted to agents and publishers for traditional publishing attempts.

I don't let up going into 2019. That year is set up for my Syn series. A group that contains seven full length novels and some wonderfully fun cosplay and marketing ideas. I have it all set up to fill the next three to four years just to complete the more pressing of my projects. As I created my list yesterday and put the finishing touches on it today I can't help but feel the presence of my dream from last night reminding me of the four new novellas that have now asked to join the party. They are not full novels but they do add a depth to Sharing Strength and become a type of series in their own right. I am determined to make off of these projects a reality. Please, send caffeine and chocolate along with happy thoughts. it is going to be a long couple of years!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Day 62 - Surprises

My favorite part of writing is that moment when you make that connection with a character. They go from being just a name on the screen or piece of paper in front of you to a being with a life, a personality and a story to tell. I love that sensation of being taken over by that character. Suddenly I know things about them, I can practically feel them in my mind as they take over.

Many people I know spend their lives looking for those "Ah Ha" moments. That realization where things finally fit together and make sense. Being a writer I am fortunate enough to have several of these during each book I write. Those epiphanies also come as I write and follow the story line. People believe that as authors we create stories in our minds and write them down but the truth of the matter is we become conduits for the characters to reach out and we simply relay the story they tell us. We may get some say in what happens from chapter to chapter but if we try to steer the story in a  certain direction against the will of the characters, it just won't work.

The book I have been rewriting and editing for quite some time now, Breathe, is like that. I set out to write a particular type of book. The characters had other plans. I finally gave in and went hard in the new direction but in the process I stopped listening to the characters again. They added in a romantic relationship to what was supposed to be a suspense novel. I jumped on the romance train but that forced me to overlook, and even remove, much of the suspense elements that started the book. It didn't flow right. One of my beta readers even said she liked both stories, it sounded like two completely different books smashed together.

As I am working to correct this I am learning more about the characters and, while I believe many parts of the previous book will remain, I am stepping back from any control of the story. I am excited to see what surprises they have in store for me to bring the book back on track to tell it the way it should have been told all along. There is another project I will be diving into later this year that will also be a large part tapping into the characters. While I love the surprises that come from getting to know mere about the characters and their backgrounds, this project is going to be full of emotional epiphanies.