Friday, August 28, 2015

Persistent Knocking at the Door

When life has gotten hard or in the way and I haven't been able to write, I can assure you just because I haven't written doesn't mean the creativeness hasn't stopped calling.  I've tried to turn off that part of my brain, but then the floodgate gets opened by the most smallest of things (like the waiter singing to himself while clearing a table or seeing the mischievous twinkle in someone's eye).

There are nights I lay in bed and close my eyes for rest, but it doesn't come.  Instead images and voices of characters plead their case to take over.  

"Pick me?" 
"What's my story?"
 "Who will I fall in love with?" 
"What troubles lie ahead?"

Some of those questions I could have very likely been thinking myself get hijacked by the yet-to-be-created characters that take up residence in my mind.  Granted, when I do have the freedom or time to indulge I will get out pen and paper and rough out scenes, scenarios, couples, and the like.  This helps silence some, but usually it just opens more doors of possibility and a new wave comes rushing in.

Take for example the work I started to create the other day.  After a conversation with someone, images came to mind and though I tried to ignore them at first, they would not stop.  Each night a little more would show itself and the images stopped being flashes of scenes and began taking shape into movements and conversations and the feel of the touch of his hand.  Finally, Wednesday evening, I gave in.

Not only did I give in to that character that was seducing himself into creation, but also a whole new series idea was birthed out of it.  By time I felt exorcised of the leading man I had written over 17 pages!  Needless to say, I guess I maybe should have started writing when he first came knocking on the door to my creative brain.

There have been those moments when I doubt myself and wonder aloud who the hell do I think I am to try to be a writer and what gives me the right to think I'm even remotely talented.  Then there are nights like the other night where the words flow from me and I realize I am merely the conduit that allows the characters to find life on the pages.

I can never explain how amazing it feels to have all this life spew from my fingers.  I know anyone with a passion can understand that magical feeling, that without a doubt moment when you know, deep in the marrow of your bones, that you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing.

In those moments I (imaginarily) throw my hands in the air and feel the wind in my face as I am twisted and turned through until the end.  When the energy passes and I shut my laptop all I can do is sit in awe and be grateful for the gift that for some reason has been given to me.  Not everyone wants what is created from my gifts, but those that do - I hope you truly enjoy the journey of the characters as much as I have enjoyed going along the ride myself. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Why Romance?

Of all the genres to love, romance is by far my favorite.  Yes, I have a ton of self-help books on my shelves and in my Kindle, I've been known to love a biography or two, but by and large romance has always been my thing.

I remember the first romance novel I ever read.  Okay, so I don't remember the title or author, but I do remember the plot.  I remember the musty smell of the book and the yellowish color of the pages.  It was an old Harlequin from the late 70s (mind you it was circa 1992 and I was only 12 years old).  It isn't the sex scene that stuck in my brain - it was the wicker furniture of her apartment (very 3's Company like) and the fact that at some point someone hit a baseball into someone's windshield and when the leading man ran over his socks went to his knees (random I know)...oh and that the leading lady was a virgin well into her mid-twenties - which seemed old even to me, but I figured maybe all that 'save yourself for marriage' talk was truly practiced by everyone, even in books.

That summer someone had given my mom a large garbage bag of 'cheap romances'.  I snuck into the closet where the bag was kept and looked at a few covers, for some reason that book's cover stuck out.  That was the first in hundred or thousands that I have read in the 25 years since.  I may not remember all the titles or authors, but usually if you give me a brief intro or character names, I can tell you the plots to a large percentage of the books I've read...the stories have stuck with me that much.

So what is it that draws me to romance?  Well I can say I've always leaned toward contemporary romance so it really wasn't the knights in shining armor or the damsels in distress.  For me what led me to it was the hope of happiness, the longing for true love, and the desire for a happily ever after.  Long before the bulging muscles or heaving bosoms, before I knew about alpha males and strong women.  For me it was always the hope for having a partner.  Not to mention the books took me out of my lonely single-dom and put me in worlds far outside the realm of my small town life. Not only were the possibilities endless in the books, but it gave me that glimmer of hope that those same possibilities were available to me in the real world.

Yes, I love the steamy sex, the moans of ecstasy, and the riding off into the sunset.  I love when he brushes her hair back and gently kisses her neck or when she runs her hands over the taunt tan muscles of his forearm.  But for me, more than any of that, it's what goes on inside the characters...

I love characters that have been hurt or don't trust easily (they are my tribe), I rejoice for them when they begin to take down their walls and see a kindred spirit in someone else.  I get all warm and fuzzy when they believe they deserve passion and deep love ... and great sex (I mean come on now)!! I love that no matter how dismal my personal relationship status may be at that moment, I can get lost in someone else's happiness - even if it's only fiction.

Before I was ever a romance writer I was a romance reader.  Not only do I love reading these characters, but I love writing them.  Like any writer, bits of me are in them and in some ways I live vicariously through them.  Also, sometimes when I put those bits and pieces in, what I get back is so much more - more belief in myself, more hope in my own heart, and more possibilities of my own happily ever after.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Self-Publishing My Way

Five years ago I was editing the first full book I'd ever finished - it was the 5th time I'd read through and edited it, and it seemed I had several more read-throughs to go before FINDING HOME would see publication - even after that I did 3 rounds of updates!

At the time, I thought all that editing would be the hardest part ... little did I realize all that being self-published included.  But it is a decision I have never regretted, even if there is so much to do!

I tried the traditional-publishing route, but I hate hearing NO and I am so impatient, so it didn't take long for me to see that wasn't the road for me.  I'd never dreamed big enough to think what I would do if I ever really wrote an entire book.  Suddenly faced with endless possibilities, I struggled with where to begin. I've always had the mentality of 'go big or go home', so when I did look at publishers I looked at the top of the list - Harper Collins.  I don't think my aim was too high, I think the issue was that when I was trying to get published, those big houses were having to change their ways to accommodate the 'fad' of e-books.

After waiting months to hear back from Harper Collins about if they were even interested in seeing my book, I was frustrated and discouraged.  A clandestine lunch with a friend lead to her suggesting the new avenue of self-publishing.  Honestly I didn't even know how regular publishing worked let alone self-publishing.  I was a bit 'old school' and didn't want to look into e-books....I love real hardcover/paperback books - the feel, smell, sound of the pages turning.

When I finally got word back from HC to resubmit using their new online form, I second-guessed long enough to start looking into self-publishing.  Within weeks I'd researched so much that there was no doubt what path I needed to take.  I never did resubmit to Harper Collins, instead I took fate into my own hands.  Yes, there are pros and cons to both, but for me the path was clear. I took one step, then another, and never looked back.
In the last five years, I've lost my prejudice against e-books, so much so that it's now the main way I promote my books.  Not to bore you with math but here's a breakdown on why....My books list for roughly $10 in costs around $5 to have the book printed (I design the cover and upload a PDF, they just print and paste it all together)...then if I sell the books through Amazon and they take their time it's all said and done my royalties are $2 on that $10 book.

Now, I can sell the e-book for $2.99 directly to Amazon, I simply upload the cover image and the document.  Because my book is priced at that rate I receive 70% royalties, so I walk away with just over $2 for that $2.99 book.  Doing the math alone e-books are more profitable.  Not to mention the reader doesn't need to wait for the book to ship!  In the end, selling those $2.99 books may seem small, but I know authors who sell their books for 99 cents (only making 35%) and profit hundreds of thousands of dollars!!!!

Self-publishing isn't just uploading the material and calling it done, oh no sir!  Self-publishing also includes promoting/marketing/social media maintanance.  Usually this is done here on the blog or over at my FACEBOOK page, but during the summer I try to promote at craft shows or outdoor festivals.  However, that means ordering bulks stock of all my books, setting up the booth, manning the booth for hours/days in the elements, and hulling everything across the county/state/region.  so yes, e-book promoting is a lot less heavy lifting as well!  Amazon also has great tools where I can run sales for my books so that is helpful.  There are also several companies that offer to promote books via Twitter/Facebook/Blog blasts that have shown a little promise.

Yes, self-publishing is a lot more work than I ever imagined, but the pride I get from seeing my dreams in print far outweigh any stresses that come with it.  At times, the stresses do intimidate me and I find myself stalling in the writing of a new book.  Or I start writing more than one book, I allow myself to get distracted by things that shouldn't hold so much of my attention, I don't allow that 'creative' side of my brain to open up.  Oh I could go on and on in the ways I don't let myself fully live my dream....or at least I did.  
Lately I have been much better on letting those scenes come to mind and getting them on paper.  The books are starting to take shape in my mind and on the pages again.  Even as the words show up, I see other areas fall into place.  I see the book covers coming to completion, I'm making a list of promoters to help me take my books to a whole new level of readership.  Slowly and surely, things still move forward.  As much as I have stayed stuck, the universe keeps putting things in my path that show me writing is still the passion I need to follow.  And follow it I shall...

Friday, August 7, 2015

Just a bunch of Characters

Last week I spoke about how the creative mind works and being able to create scenes in the spur of the moment. This week - where do I get these characters from?

If you've ever met me in person or anyone in my family, you will know I don't have to look far to find plenty of different character traits.  There are a boatload of feisty women, just as many hardworking men, and the occasional 'odd ball' (myself included).

Last year for mom's birthday.  My parents, siblings, and most our kids!

My mom, aunts, cousins, sister, nieces, and me - all feisty women

Before I go further, let me just add my usual disclaimer that all characters are fiction and not directly people.  There are bits and pieces of people I know, but not them verbatim.  Now, having stated that, let's continue....

I guess the easiest way for me to tell you of the characters is to describe a few from my books.  Starting at the beginning with Finding Home.

  • Avery - shocker but this first leading lady is none other than ME.  I didn't realize how much of myself was put into creating Avery until after I re-read the book. Her insecurities, hopes, and dreams, that adventurous spirit - all those are me.  Even her loss of a child, I know that pain directly.
  • Avery's mom and step-dad - based on my mom and step-dad.  Mom is strong, works hard, and gives tough love.  She's always wanted me to succeed, but I'll always be her little girl (even though I'm the oldest).  My step-dad really was born and raised in California, he's been a great addition to our family and a wonderful partner for our mother.
  • Though I'd love to say who inspired Damien - I can't ...he is totally fiction (all the good ones are!)...but a few traits of his, like moments of thoughtfulness, are based off the man I was married to when I first wrote the book.  The setting of San Diego was actually where we took our honeymoon and inspired me to write the story to begin with.

For Taking Chances, the characters were just as close to real life since this story was based off a past relationship.  From love interests, family members, to townspeople, there is a little something of everyone in there!
  • Dane - I actually did meet a man at a cook-out, we did enjoy time together, this story was very much my alternative version to reality as our relationship never got a second chance.  He (the unnamed hero) does know about the book and jokes often about it.  As a side note for those who have read it - YES, the lake mentioned was real, as was the magical night on the dock. ;)
  • Danny (Myra's son) - my son all the way!  Some of the dialog is from things he has said, mannerisms are similar, sense of humor, etc.
  • Myra's sister - my kid sister.  She is a wonderful mom to my nieces and nephews and I could totally see her coming over and taking my remote.  She's a brat like that, but I love her to pieces.

In Playing with Fire it was a mix of people and places. 
  • Batesville, Arkansas is just a few miles from the small town my grandmother grew up in.  I was able to visit that little town - Sulphur Rock - when I was a teenager.  There was very much a family oriented feel to the place (then again we were there for a family reunion so it was a week of all family time).  But I could also see where someone with no family could slip through.  
  • Noel's deceased mother - when writing her I imagined my grandmother and the things I hoped she would feel about me making changes in my life, even if she weren't alive any longer to be by my side.
  • Trent's grandmother was based on my sister's mother-in-law.  She is a wonderful woman who speaks Spanglish, luckily I know a little Spanish and can decipher when she switches languages in the middle of a sentence!! My brother-in-law was kind enough to read the Spanish portions to make sure I was saying things correctly!
  • The mean ex and his father - these hateful people were totally fiction, but based on some of the terrible things I have seen or heard in the news. 

In upcoming books I know there is a character based on at least one of my aunts ( or parts of all 8 of them), more family members, people I have (or nearly have) dated, people I've worked with, other characters from movies, even strangers of the street.  There are scenes that really have happened and others I WISH took place.  Writing is about taking what you know and creating from there....with the wide range of characteristics in my family and friends, the possibilities are really endless!

It's no wonder I have nearly 20 other books already outlined and waiting to be written!

This weekend I"m on vacation to northern Michigan to visit family and enjoy time at the lake.  I know I will have a pen and paper ready to jot down the different characters or scenes the next few days will bring. 

Never a dull moment!

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