Thursday, September 19, 2019

Learning Opportunities

Tomorrow brings the next of my traveling signings. So far this year I have been a part of several new events. Back in February I joined authors from the Las Vegas Coffee House Tours in sharing a booth at the Tucson Book Festival and then headed east to Michigan and Ohio to take part in the Authors and Dancers Against Cancer signing and dance recital. Both of these events, and the ones that followed, brought learning experiences and a chance to grow personally and professionally.

In Tucson I was with authors with different backgrounds and genres not to mention varying approaches to customer / reader interactions. There was a bit of a learning curve for everyone to try and get along, support each other, and make sure all voices were heard when there was a problem that needed to be addressed. There was also the driving there and back plus figuring out the logistics that added stress to the weekend. Even with the issues we faced it was a great time and a successful signing for many of us who attended.

Authors and Dancers gave me a chance to do something I rarely am able to enjoy, dance in front of an audience. I trained in modern, ballet, jazz, and hiphop for years growing up and while I am fortunate enough to join a local group once a year I don't perform nearly as much as I would like. I loved being in front of the audience but was exited to share the signing part of the trip with my mom acting as my assistant. She had never been to that type of event with me and it was a pleasure having her by my side. I learned, however, that I misjudged the books for that event. Being from Las Vegas and having a humor book based on casino life I assumed it wold be the big seller like it is closer to home. What I didn't do is take into consideration one of the themes of the event (dancing) and the book I have with a dancer on the cover. Never Give Up was in danger of selling out for a bit.

Using my knowledge I have gained serving as the Marketing Director of the Coffee House Tours group I set up additional signings while visiting Michigan and seeing family and friends. Most of the signings were quiet and slow but just the fact the shop owners were welcoming and happy to have me was a success as far as I was concerned.

I had another couple events that involved travel as well. I went to Salt Lake City for the Live Literately Literacy Summit. That signing is organized by friend and fellow author David Michael and I wanted to support the evolution of his charity signings. In the past he has organized a signing to bring funds and awareness to a charity in Mesquite, NV but this past year he began his own literacy program. He is from the SLC area and so those of us who wanted to keep being a part of his generous journey travelled to join him there. That signing I drove alone the six hours north and learned how much I enjoy audio books giving me the idea to look into turning my books into possible audio files eventually.

A month after Salt Lake City I again drove north and found myself in Boise, ID. While I made the trip to Utah alone, in Boise I was joined by another author and her daughter acting as our assistant. We drove through the night and stopped to take pictures at some beautiful spots. The event was unfortunately very slow and somewhat disorganized but no experience is wasted if you learn from it and we were able to take away the lessons of how well we work together as well as the fact it takes a lot of planning to make sure we could get ourselves and our equipment safely there and back and keep our spirits up when the event was much slower than what we hoped for.

When my alarm goes off in a couple hours to leave for Kingman, AZ for the Kingman Area Books Are Magic festival I will not only be putting into practice all I've learned so far but looking for new information I can add as well.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Breathing New Life

In 2010 I took part in Nanowrimo, or for those unfamiliar, National Novel Writing Month. I completed my first book, Never Give Up, because of that competition and have taken part many times since. I am hyper competitive and even though I know it is more of a self imposed thing it would have been mortifying to me to announce I was going to do it, update often, then fail to meet the word count by the end of the month. Fifty thousand words was a daunting task at the time but now it is more of a jumping off point. Even so, I love the pressure and impending deadline it brings.

Because of the success of finishing a story I had thought about for nearly a decade I wanted to do it all over again in 2011. I talked about it with friends, posted on social media about my intentions, got snacks and looked up the winner merchandise I would be purchasing when I finished the next book. There was just one problem; I had zero new ideas. During all the time I had been telling people about how excited I was to get to work I had never come up with a topic to write about. Life happened and I found myself aching to write but it was already November 8th when I dragged myself to the library and hid away in one of their quiet rooms, desperately searching through everything on my computer hoping for inspiration. I was about to give up when I came across a short story (3400 words) I had written several months previously.

After flipping through it a few times I was sure I could expand it into the needed fifty thousand words and what was better was I already had a basic outline for the story. I began typing and was able to reach just over seven thousand words that first day. By all accounts hitting that high in one day is great, however I was over a week behind. I spent every day I had off from work over the next two weeks diving into the story and doing my best to take those precious few words and make them into a novel. I was doing great until I hit about thirty-eight thousand words, and the end of the short story. I needed twelve thousand more and had just under four days to get there. I flailed. I admit it, I flailed.

When I finished, and I managed to do so with less than an hour left, I had the words verified on the Nanowrimo site then let it sit for a few weeks. I went back through it later on to do some editing and after I was satisfied I found all the typos I sent it to my editor to read through. Her response stays with me to this very day. She said, "They're good, I liked both of them." I explained it was one story, she laughed and said try again.

She was right. When I flailed for words everything changed. It went from a suspenseful story to a fluffy romance and other than the character names there was nothing about the two parts that suggested they were in the same book. I did my best to rewrite it but it still remained disjointed. I waited two years before attempting another rewrite. This time the book had one fluid storyline but it was dull and missing something. I stuffed it away, disgusted. It wasn't until just last year when I was going through some old pieces that I came across the original short story. The suspense story that first inspired me and I realized I changed the characters so much they were unrecognizable. I had no idea at the time how to fix it but with the amount of reading and listening to audiobooks I have done recently I have found myself driven to new ways of writing and am now ready to bring this story back to life with a completely new rewrite that recaptures the original theme and genre. Bring on Breathe!

Thursday, September 5, 2019

The Darker Side

Most readers I know have a favorite genre. They may read in various sub-categories and may even add additional genres as supplements but when there is a book that they just can't wait to come out, must grab on release day, would wait in line to get it if needed, it is usually in that one man genre. In that respect I'm the same. I love thrillers.

I reader murder mystery, horror, suspense, and others but I prefer the ones with a thriller element. I have collected a decent amount of books over the years though due to limited space I have switched over to getting more of my books from the libraries or passing them on to other book fans I know once I read them. I know I could simply do the ebook thing and amass a huge collection on my Kindle but so far that hasn't appealed to me in the least. Audio books are becoming an addiction of mine but ebooks are still almost non-existent.

It seemed strange to many when I began publishing that my first book wasn't a horror. I read them. I have read almost every Stephen King book ever put into the world. He is one of my idols and that is after I graduated from the kids / YA horror of R.L. Stine. When I first read the Fear Street books I was amazed by how I felt a physical need to turn the pages. I HAD to know what was going to happen next. I read every single Goosebumps and Fear Street book I could get my hands on and when I ran out of books I moved to Stephen King and began an entirely new collection. Since then I have added authors and genres as my enjoyment and tastes have grown and changed but I still have half a dozen King books on my shelf waiting to be read as I write this.

I understand where the confusion came that I didn't choose that genre when I became an author myself but it wasn't the type of story I needed to tell. Never Give Up is a suspense so I didn't stray too far but it was still a surprise to many. When my second book came out, Survivor, and it was a based on true story drama there were more shocks from my readers. Survivor made people stop for two reasons; not only was it once again a different than expected genre but the story was my own and being that honest and raw about a situation few knew about took some time to digest. Fish was less unexpected because it is in the same series and vein as Survivor. My one remaining book wasn't a surprise though it is a huge departure to the Humor category. Just Deal With It is an inside look at  the hilarity that is my casino day job.

I have been working on several other books for awhile such as Crash and Combat which are the 3rd and 4th books to join Survivor and Fish. Those will have the same dramatic genre and will follow the same style. My Voices series is 4 books long and are Thriller through and through. There is a potential Romance in there but it is further down on the list. I find I am drawn to the darker stories in writing just as I am in reading.

Never has that been more true than in the book I have struggled with for over 7 years now. The book formerly known as Breathe (and currently called That Pain In My Ass) went from a 3400 word short story to a flailing romantic novel, to a slightly more comprehensive romance but it never felt right. The short story is a suspense thriller. The longer version should be too. I have started a complete rewrite for the first time now and I think I have finally found what was missing. The darker side of the story is what feels natural to me. I never thought of myself as an author who would kill off their characters and in one instance I mourned that character's death for nearly a week. Yet I find that when I am watching my true crime television shows or reading my darker books I relate to and am inspired by those more evil characters. They make me want to write and capture that more taboo side.

It has taken years to say, and I know I will venture from time to time, but I believe I found my home in the darker realm. Making myself comfortable in the shadows and carrying out the deeds of the undesirables sparks a life in my creative mind. I cannot wait to rename and rewrite Breathe and let the world truly see who I am becoming as a writer.