With New Year's Eve tomorrow, I thought it would be a good practice to reflect on 2019 as a whole and to create loose goals--not resolutions I'll never stick to.
The lows of 2019:
I lost a great colleague and friend this year. It was one of those situations that blindsides you, as you spoke with him and the next day he was gone. Within that week, I lost an acquaintance too, one who edited my novel Quiver. Compounded, these deaths greatly affected me and were inescapable since I was prepping for the next semester, while editing Quiver with my publisher, keeping the deaths of both men fresh in my mind. Not long after, my husband had a landscaping accident almost cutting off two of his fingers and needed surgery. Next, my special needs son had a hard time at a new school who refused to accommodate his needs and wondered why he misbehaved. I had to get an advocate and fight the system on many fronts. In all, it was a rough six months. Money, health, school, and grief caused anxiety and depression, the latter worse than it been in years.
The highs of 2019:
It began well. The first few months were uneventful and blissfully boring. Then we went to Disney World and Universal Studios for vacation, and my son finally got some therapy after a long waitlist--even if it was only for the summer. I finally got money for the paperbacks Amazon was lagging behind paying after they had switched to KDP. My second book launched. I had my first book signing. I joined a writers' group and found new friends who could talk about the craft and critique each other's work. A new occupational therapy place opened and my son got a permanent slot. I got a lot of writing done, slayed NaNoWriMo, and edited two manuscripts. By the end of the year, my mental health has improved.
Overall, I have had better years. I cannot complain since 2018 and 2017 were some of the best years of my life--buying my dream house, becoming a published author, and finally getting a correct diagnosis for my son. But what 2019 reminded me is that we need the lows to make the highs so much better. Also, that I need to make some changes in my life to better prepare myself for stress, grief, and overall mental health.
Goals for 2020:
When it comes to life, I need to continue delegating things to others in my family when things are too much and find a better way to deal with my stress such as exercising. I also need to be more social, set up a schedule to get out of the house so my mental health isn't affected by idleness in the summer or overload during the school year.
When it comes to writing, I will finish book 3 of Celestial Spheres (only a couple chapters left), concluding the trilogy, and submit it. This will happen because I do have a publisher deadline--very useful motivation. I will make the difficult decision of whether I will continue the series with different characters in a spin off or move on. I will work on book 3 of The Immortal Transcripts after this; a rough draft is already handwritten, so I feel confident I can get it done in a timely fashion. Last, I want to see if I can finish a children's chapter book that I have half written and get it in querying shape for 2021. On top of life and work, this is a lot, but I know I'll great 2/3 finished for sure.
In all, 2019 was full of highs, lows, and lots of lessons. Happy New Year!
YA Book Review:
Kismet and Karma
This is technically book 2--although it completely overlaps the timeline--that follows Fate and Fortune. Complete spoiler alert, so if interested in these books, then go back and read my review on book 1 here.
If you stayed, this is not a continuation of book one but basically how all of book 1 was pulled off, which is what I was wondering the entire time I read it. However, separating the books was a great move on the author's part because a huge reveal would've taken away from the romance aspect. At the end of Fate and Fortune, we are left wondering if Bryce and Paige are destined to be together and whether magic exists or if there was some elaborate hoax going on. Realists would say the latter, but how on Earth could such a stunt be pulled off? In their group of friends, a matchmaker wants to set the couple up and soon the entire group--with their own love interests, subplots, and motivations--is pulled into the scheme. Only it seems like it might be too difficult to pull off as Bryce and Paige both become suspicious. Do they pull it off or get caught in the act of the biggest love hoax of the century?
What is great about this novel is we are no longer in Bryce and Paige's heads, but in everyone else's. Each character has a unique voice, personality, and subplot of what they are dealing with. I thought it would be repetitive to hear about the same events, but not at all. Between crushes, new love interests, and a hidden relationship--Paige and Bryce become the backdrop, not the main feature. I am in awe of how Daniels was able to keep track of such intricate plots about how the group performed everything in book one while being able to weave new story lines in so seamlessly that nothing was confusing and everything made so much sense (considering both books, I mean). The close-calls and the fear of being caught makes this a real page-turner. Again, the characterization of them all was spot-on realistic and we got to see more into their heads, along with a new character in the mix. It was nice to get to see the depth to their characters we weren't privy to in book one.
This was masterfully done and I suggest reading it because you are truly getting another novel despite how it depicts some already told events. The close-calls and idea of getting caught will keep you turning the pages.
If you read the first one, seriously pick this one up; you won't regret it: buy here.
to the Attack on Pantsers
Dear Writing Community,
We need to have a talk. Our wonderful community is usually very supportive and kind, but as of late, there have been vitriolic camps springing up within us. Often I see writers questioning or rejecting views about writing that are unlike their own, reminding me very much of politics. News flash. Your writing methods are not the "right" way, nor are they the only way. They simply work for you. Writers are a diverse group of people who can crank out a book through different methods to achieve the same result: a good book.
I'm writing this in response to a Twitter incident where an author, who shall remain nameless, wrote a scathing post attacking pantsers--that we should label our books as not plotted, so she could avoid buying them. You can imagine the backlash. What was more unsettling were the people who agreed with her. They were dragging great authors through the mud for bad endings and other sins they insisted were only "pantser problems."
Another obvious problem is she is attacking a group of people. Never a good thing to do. I would guess she was purposely doing this to garner attention and followers, but it appears she actually didn't expect backlash of this magnitude. How could someone be unaware that insulting others might not be a good thing to do? It's a blindness of some, a lack of empathy. Some of us are unable to place ourselves in others' shoes to try to understand them. When we can't understand it, we reject it. After the rejection, we scapegoat it or blame it for unrelated things. This is what happened. A lack of empathy is part of the human condition and the enemy of diversity. Unfortunately, I see this daily in how my special needs child is treated by others, including adults.
In the end, there are only a couple small plot holes, and I miraculously see that I have character arcs, symbolism, foreshadowing, etc. and a SOUND plot. Haters will scoff at this, but if you have the building blocks of writing down, they can become subconscious. Of course, I do revise and edit, but the majority doesn't change much. This is how my mind crafts. I pants because it works for me, not because I am unable to plot, but simply because it is not as effective for me. So writing community, let's move back to supporting each other, strive to understand others, and make a more harmonious place that embraces diversity of every kind. Instead of rejecting a method unlike ours, let's seek to understand it. As I tell my special needs son daily--some of us are different, no better no worse.
E.L. Reedy & A.M. Wade
Reid is a good-natured 16-year-old farm kid. He loves his little brother and his parents, and he does okay in school. But he has issues. He can’t understand why the neighbor girl looks at him that way, or the way it makes him feel. He sees visions of places far and near, in the now and in the past. And in his free time, he practices magic—gifts handed over for 10,000 years in a Druidic tribe that serves an ancient Goddess. Lukas just wants to figure it all out, to just be a normal kid, but…
A war is coming between Lukas’ Goddess and an ancient Demon King. The tragic death of his parents shakes his faith, and with the sudden loss of his remaining family it is shattered. Blinded by rage, Lukas turns away from his friends and trains under a deceptive, yet formidable master to hone his magic and prevent the demon’s final objective--obliteration of all life on earth.
War begins! A forged weapon, Lukas rejoins his friends and sets after the Demon King. From a hidden crypt, where evil lies waiting, to the Iowa countryside, they battle to prevent the end of all they know. Lukas must overcome his doubts and allow the Light to work through him--to defeat both the foe of his Goddess and a new more familiar one.
Bound by a dark act of hate and despair, high school freshmen, Andrew and Kiernan, learn that their untimely deaths did not bring an end to their pain, but only began the suffering of those left behind. While his lost memories return, Andrew must master seemingly impossible feats, both spiritual and physical.
As a dark spirit stalks Kiernan through the borderlands of life and death, he must also face the pain his actions have caused his loved ones. To save both their souls, Andrew must convince Kiernan to return to life and open his eyes to the love and beauty which had always been there.
What inspired you to write Soul Dark: Chosen?
"It started with a concept – evil hides in plain sight. However, the one idea gave birth to two more: who/what will rise before it? And at what cost? It was easy coming up with the setting (rural Iowa), and our Grandparent’s real farm, which sadly ceased to exist years ago. We write in several of the Young Adult categories, so character creation was tough – choosing who would and would not make it until the end."
Are you a plotter or pantser? Tell us your process.
"We are, I guess you would say, “Plantsers.” We start with an idea, find it’s theme, and create the main characters. We then decide the beginning, middle, and end. Everything in between though comes out all willy-nilly and more often than not forces us to change, you guessed it, the beginning, middle, and end."
What is your preferred category and genre to write? Why?
"We focus our energies in Young Adult realm (13-20ish). The actual adult world has enough real drama: raising kids, paying bills, work, taxes, politics, etc. So we create stories in a fantasy world, but we have learned through our writing and our own youth that the challenges facing young people are just as real and difficult for them. And sometimes they can surprise us with their strength, fortitude, and at times, their wisdom. Like in the real world today, where the young lady, Greta Thunberg is leading the world in a race to save our planet from polluters and government inaction. Agree with her or not that takes a rare sort of courage."
What’s next for you?
"We’ve written the first part of book two in the Soul Dark series, but sometimes you need a break, so I’m focusing on rewriting my first creation from many years ago – an epic fantasy that asks a simple question: How far would a parent go to save their child from themselves?"
I love the sound of this one too!
You can find E.L. Reedy and A.M. Wade through these links
I love the sound of this one too!
You can find E.L. Reedy and A.M. Wade through these links
So NaNoWriMo2019 came to a close. If you are unsure what I'm talking about see here for an explanation and here for my last check in. In short, it is a writing self-challenge for authors.The month is over and the totals are in. I managed just over 50,000 words, despite housework, child-rearing, and lots of grading--including the last week of the month being dedicated completely to grading research papers. Therefore, instead of a month, I only had three weeks. Not bad, huh?
I had started with a beginning and an end due to my weird writing order and organization of 18k. What I wrote during NaNo was the middle and more onto the end, skipping around to what scenes or concepts came to me, skipping around when I felt stuck. What I have left to do to complete a full rough draft is one chapter of a war that needed some research and to flesh out certain chapters that were mostly dialogue and action to propel the plot forward. This is usually how I write: get the story down, add more description and fix inconsistencies during draft two. So while my story is now 100 words shy of 70,000 words, it probably will end up with a final word counter of 80-90k.
Is NaNo for you? Not necessarily. I saw a lot of authors who were depressed and self-loathing because they couldn't do it. It is not meant to shame you for not writing fast. Perhaps you work better at a slower pace and can write a better book than someone like me who can pound it out quickly. "Fast" doesn't always equate with "good" when it comes to writing. I believe NaNo is more for pansters (who do not need a plan at all) or plotters who have thoroughly prepped all October to the point they can write freely. As a pantser who has been writing every day almost my entire life before bed as a way to unwind, NaNo is made for me. If you don't have a set routine like mine, NaNo can help establish it.
If NaNo is not for you, there is a summer camp one where you set your own writing goals--not necessarily word count, but could be outlining, editing, a number of chapters, etc. I have the summers off work, so this one is better for me and might be for you. Check it out here.
In the spirit of Christmas--it's early, but I know you're shopping like mad right now--I'm going to promote the YA books that I have read over the last two years that I loved and gave great reviews for (plugging the title in my blog's search box will pull up the review). Most of these authors are indie, meaning published by indie publishers or self-published.
Note: a lot of these books bend genres and I placed them in their foremost category. Most of them entail some level of romance or romantic plot or sub-plot. These are the kindle links but can be found in paperback and through other digital venues.
Happy holidays everyone, and be sure to check these out for any young adult or even adult reader.
If you aren't sure what #NaNoWriMo is, please check out my previous post about it: here. Okay, time to check in fellow authors. Where are we on our NaNoWriMo goals? Yes, we're supposed to hit 50k, but most of us have jobs or children or both to take care of. Mentally, I prepared myself to get 35k done. At this point I should have 17,500 done. How has it gone, you ask?
I started writing the novel at 18k, but I will be excluding that from my NaNo count to follow the rules. It's a sequel, so when I finished the last book, I kept it going to flesh out a bit of my conflicts so that I was sure that I planted seeds in the previous book for them. It's part of my continuity method as I am not really a plotter. Outlines feel confining and are largely ignored by me. Aside from the general conflicts set up and the first few chapters down, I had an ending. My brain works off inspiration, not organization, so I never write in order or start to finish. I jump around where inspiration takes me. I had a great visualization of how I wanted the book to end.
Going into NaNo, I had no idea how the start would get to the end except for a few things I needed to happen strategically: my main characters would have to be divided up somehow for the end to come about. I would need to pull together all loose ends before the ending I wrote since it is book 3 of a trilogy. I would have 3 villains each dispatched by the end. These were things set up in my mind that built from the other two books. This is the extent of my plotting, as I'm a pantser at heart.
I started off extremely well. The first 6 days I logged in with 2,000 or more, having a great day of 6,500. Grading got in the way here and there, so there were days off. On Nov. 10th I had 22,000 in the bank, which was absolutely astounding and incredible. Considering I was grading 4/10 days and was sick, this was amazing. I logged in at the halfway point on November 15th with 32,089 words to be exact. Will I make it to my 35k? For sure. Will I make it to 50k by the 22nd? (my NaNoWriMo2019 ends early as I get research papers to grade). Only time will tell. No matter what, this experience every year is worth it just to get motivated and to write a big chunk of my book.
What are you word counts?
A couple months ago, I decided to join a writers' group. I was wary. I was hesitant. I was not afraid of the criticism at all. I was afraid of not fitting in. Either they might be way more experienced than me and talk down to me or they would be all new aspiring writers who I would need to help and the relationship would stress me out rather than be reciprocal. I hope no one takes the latter as snobbery, but I have degrees in English, teach grammar, and am published, so it was a legitimate concern that I would be "grading" or editing for free, and I'm nice, so refusing to help would be difficult. As for the former--despite being confident--I still feel a bit inferior to authors who are able to sell well, who have fans, as I'm still starting out with a zero marketing budget, so things are trickling in slowly. I am a very busy person, so I thought this would be too much: special needs child, career as an English Lecturer, and slotted to publish 2 books a year.
When I contacted them, they were nice and were inviting. They did tell me writing was a hobby for most of them, but there were a few successfully self-published authors in the crew. When I arrived, I was the youngest in the room. I was nervous about that. Despite being close to 40, I'm short, and I look a decade younger (or more, according to some crazy, flattering people). What this usually means is I'm treated as inferior, ignorant, and naive--even if it is a topic of my expertise. This treatment drives me crazy and sets me off into rabid-chihuahua mode.
To be honest, walking in late, I felt some tension. I listened the entire time since I hadn't read any of their works yet. I noticed a stern woman giving criticism in a tone some would say was harsh. Her advice was correct and she knew her stuff, but the delivery was a bit condescending. Another woman was pretty combative about any advice. Afterward, the one who tried to give advice asked to speak with me. After a conversation with her, I realized she was a former professor and had books published through publishers too. She said she joined the group wanting to help people, but they didn't want her help. I didn't know the group yet, so didn't know if this was true or if it was because her delivery was kind of old-school academia (treating "pupils" as lessers).
I knew I could not judge the group off the one day, so I went back. I figured if it went badly again, I'd quit and have a blog topic at the minimum. This time, both women were not there and others were there I hadn't met last time; I went through the meeting, knowing this would be my deciding factor. The meeting was great. There was no tension, no rough criticism--all told in constructive ways--and no one was angry about advice given. I was able to contribute what I knew. Unlike what the one woman had told me, I found people were eager to learn about how I was published and what I knew. But it was not in a way that made me feel exploited or used, but I felt useful. I love helping people if I can, so this made my day. I officially joined the group and jumped into critiquing and sending in a half completed book of mine that I was having trouble with.
Meetings from there on went well. Everyone gave advice about others' books and things were running smoothly. With my book, I got the positive feedback I needed--since this book is out of my normal genre, age category, and was personal--to go forward with it. They had great advice to help me get through my usually nonexistent writer's block. In the end, a few women shared their stories of their children or their own problems that related to my story. Some were in tears. It was a powerful and moving, and I knew then and there I made some friends.
I sometimes have a difficult life. If it isn't difficult, it is busy. These people have given me a community, a friendship that was and is needed. A place where I don't talk about my problems, but my craft. A place where I don't talk about my job, but my passion.
I was skeptical, but so glad I joined up with fellow writers. I feel happy helping and get so much back. I suggest anyone who feels alone as a writer, who seeks connection, to try to find a group out there near you. If it doesn't exist, create your own.
YA Book Review:
Fate and Fortune
I won Fate and Fortune, by Robin Daniels, at a book launch for a different author and was pleased with my bounty. It's an adorable contemporary romance with dynamic characters, realistic dialogue, and a touch of magic.
After Paige is dumped by her boyfriend of two years, she retreats from life until her brother and her best friend, Amy, force her to go to a county fair where she is pressured into seeing a psychic. To make matters worse, Paige runs into her ex and her friend Kennedy tries to make him jealous. Kennedy tells everyone her brother, Bryce, is dating Paige. Meanwhile, Bryce, a lifelong friend who has loved Paige since he was six, also sees this psychic. After that night, Bryce is visited by a genie named Genie who will grant him wishes of her choosing, while Paige is given a magical message in a bottle that keeps disappearing and reappearing. Both these magical forces push the two into a fake relationship that might just become real if fate and magic can make it so.
I loved the plot and I loved how things seemed magical, but their tight-knit group of friends acted weird at times showing they were involved. The only drawback was we didn't get the explanation of how it was pulled off by everyone or whether there really was some magic. The good news is, there is a sequel that tells us just that (I'll be reviewing that in the future). The events are complex but that doesn't detract from the novel; the POV is only Paige and Bryce, so it's easy to follow. I can imagine the second book will be very interesting.
Another great attribute is the dialogue and characterization. They go hand in hand. They are a bunch of funny teens who are always teasing siblings and making fun of each other for a laugh. I teach college freshman, so know first-hand that these characters ring true. It's the kind of banter I hear daily. This helped character development. Bryce was serious and sweet, while Paige was your everyday girl who was wholesome and clever so any girl can relate. They were normal teens--not stereotypes or caricatures.
In all, an adorable read for any teen or even adults who like to reminisce in the days gone by and first loves. Available for purchase here.
What is NaNoWriMo?
NaNoWriMo is a movement beloved and participated in by thousands of writers annually. Every November authors prep to start writing like mad Nov. 1st through the 30th with the quest of reaching 50k words. That is roughly 1,600 and change words a day. It is a lofty but possible goal to strive for. To find out more about NaNo and to sign up see here.
Why should you do it?
It is motivational, sets up a schedule in your life that makes writing a daily habit, and you feel accomplished and part of something. Authors cheer others on, you report your daily progress to get yourself motivated, and you get a lot done. Will you make it to 50k? Does that even matter? Any progress towards finishing your manuscript is a win.
What about my day job?
I'm a college English Lecturer, so each November, I get a stack of 80 research papers to grade. I never made the word count amount after I starting teaching, but NaNoWriMo makes me motivated enough to pound out a lot of word count prior to this grading avalanche. Basically, I get 3 weeks instead of 4 and mange to get anywhere from 30-35k written. So yeah, the day job might prevent you from reaching the goal, but anything you've gotten down is a success. Without this motivation, I probably would only get about 15k completed. And now NaNoWriMo also does a summer "camp" version in the summer so I rocked 50k then.
My weigh in?
Try it no matter what. You don't have to register on their site or announce it, but test yourself. You might just see you're capable of writing more than you thought you could. You'll get things done and maybe write more than you ever have in one month before. You might just alter your lifestyle to fit writing in even more, and gain the confidence to finish your manuscript. It can't hurt, so give it a go.
I've had requests from the #writingcommunity about editing. New authors sometimes aren't sure where to start or how to go about it. It's extremely intimidating to look at the entire finished book at once, so having a process to edit helps us see it in smaller, more manageable pieces. I'm going to give you two perspectives: one from a writing instructor's point-of-view--basically what I teach my students for all types of writing--and then from an author's point-of-view--meaning the exact steps I've taken with two different publishers.
Revision-- the focus is on global issues, meaning you look at the ideas, organization, content. The key is to NOT look at grammar or sentence structures.
Edit--here's when you look at sentence structures, the flow, fixing word choices and grammar, polishing it up. The trick is to read it aloud to hear problems.
Copyedit--this is when you hyperfocus on grammar, format, word choices trying to find any remaining mistakes. The key is to print it out so you can correct it like a teacher--you see things differently when switching mediums.
As you see, this starts global, looking at it as a whole, then works to narrowing the focus. If you try to do it all (and are not an editor or teacher), it can be extremely overwhelming.
With publishers, I've had three similar levels called different things but in a sense have the same concepts:
Developmental--they look for important content issues, such as plot holes, and discrepancies in timelines, long lulls, info-dropping, character motivation, consistency, and arcs, etc. This is much like the revision process in that it seeks to fix global issues.
Line edits--this is focusing on word choices, grammar, cohesion what you think of when it comes to an editor trying to fix everything in your work. It is pretty much the same as educational editing, but it is very focused, looking for everything.
Copy edits--this is another round of looking for grammar, typos, but also formatting, spacing, every little detail of how it looks on the page. Usually, the publisher will have a proof copy to read through. seeing it in print, in the novel makes it easier to see errors. Sometimes this is considered a fourth step, proofing.
This looks a global and specific issues, but I notice editors tend to do it more organically, mixing these steps together at times--particularly if they don't have too much to note developmentally, they'll get ahead. The idea is roughly the same in the end.
So how much do you edit? That is up to you. I'm an English professor who teaches grammar and yet I make a ton of errors in a rough draft. I also am a pantser and find that I write faster than plotters, but must revise more for those plot holes I create. Usually, I revise twice, then edit once, send it to a couple betas, edit, copyedit, and then submit. My publisher then does the above steps developmental, line, and copy edits/proofing. That's a minimum of eight rounds of editing after the initial rough draft. The thing I notice most when books are not professionally edited is not just grammatical mistakes, but also more global--long lulls, strange character behaviors or forced motivations, time incongruity, info-dumping, and more. It cannot hurt an author to seek professional advice and can help them see issues easily overlooked.
The takeaway? Do all three rounds as much as needed before querying. Breaking it up in 3 stages makes it less daunting. Know when to let go, when to seek help, and always have some kind of pro help you. No matter how good of a writer you are, you cannot catch all your mistakes or be unbiased. Professional editors even have editors look over their work
Julian Michael Carver
It's the first day of fourth-grade for twins Andy and Anna. Andy is a shy boy obsessed with dinosaurs and Anna is an adventurous girl willing to take risks. One day when they step off the school bus, Anna suggests taking a shortcut through a dark alley to get home.
As they navigate through the abandoned alley, they find a mysterious large egg tucked under a bush. They take it home and try to hatch it, careful not to tell their parents who are strict about pets. After building a makeshift nest in the attic, the egg hatches into a friendly baby velociraptor, whom they later name Tennyson, due to his infatuation with destroying tennis balls.
Now they must convince their parents to keep the little dinosaur, while overcoming bad grades and the school bully.
When the Saunders go camping in the Pennsylvanian wilderness, Mr. Saunders tells the kids a scary story about a legendary creature named Fatfoot, who lives in the forest nearby. At first, the children don't believe the strange tale, until things begin to go bump in the night. It's up to Andy, Anna, and everyone's favorite raptor, Tennyson, to investigate the legend themselves.
The Man Himself
Julian Michael Carver (born Joey Kelly) is a novelist specializing in the lost world sub genre of science fiction.
Carver grew up loving dinosaurs, and aims to bring them back into the literature spotlight.
In 2013, Carver graduated from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, with a bachelor's degree in Visual Effects and Motion Graphics. Since college graduation, Carver has worked full time in the world of commercial advertising.
He uses his skills in filmmaking, motion graphics, and animation to market and develop his works of literature. Currently, he is writing and developing a children's chapter book series, The Backpack Dinosaur, and plans to release the series through his publishing imprint Pteranodon Press.
The Man with A Plan
I asked Carver what was next for him, and he responded with, "My next steps are to continue writing The Backpack Dinosaur stores, giving kids a safe and fun form of chapter books. I have plans for at least ten stories in The Backpack Dinosaur. Additionally, I have one novel Triassic, currently under consideration from a major publisher as well as a short story that I've submitted for an anthology. I want to keep focusing all of my fictional work towards dinosaurs or prehistoric themes, and become known as the 'dinosaur writer'."
Where it all Comes From
When asked about his inspiration for the series, Carver said, "My inspiration for the series came from my love of dinosaurs in my childhood. I love Jurassic Park and The Lost World. Additionally, the book style came from Goosebumps, The Bailey School Kids, A to Z Mysteries, and other popular children's chapter books from the 1990's. I felt as if children's chapter books never really touched on dinosaurs, so I figured I'd come up with a concept because it's something I could go on and on about."
All authors want to know the magical question of what works the best for marketing. Carver shared his wisdom: "As far as marketing strategies go, the least effective is probably cold-emailing bookstores or librarians. Usually there are no replies, but sometimes you will get someone who wants to buy a copy. The best strategy for me is to create commercials and run them through YouTube as ads. I work full-time as a commercial editor, so I can write the script, animate the spot, and upload/render it like second nature. I think this gives me an edge over a lot of other writers and I want to try my best to keep that going. I am toying with the idea of also submitting the spot to a movie theater and seeing how it works running the ad on the big screen."
Wow, the "dinosaur writer" has a lot going on and an amazing marketing strategy. I'll be posting a review of book 1 after I get my son's help. He is a fan, for sure. Let's support fellow authors by sharing, following, and uplifting each other. You can find Carver through the following links:
NA Book Review:
(The Crescent Chronicles)
Although Flight had a great premise and interesting characters, it did not take flight due to one fatal flaw: the "hero." This is not a book for any female who believes in gender equality. Warning, Spoilers!
Allie decides a summer working at her father's hotel is exactly what she needs before she goes to college. With her entire life mapped out for her by her parents, she's feeling a tad rebellious. After breaking up with her boyfriend who can't seem to grasp it is over, Allie swears off guys which doesn't last when she feels a deep attraction to the arrogant and mysterious Levi. Soon she finds herself immersed in a supernatural world that makes her feel truly alive, but being with Levi might just ruin her life or even get her killed.
Overall, it is worth the read for some audiences, but I will not be continuing the series due to some issues such as characterization of the hero, disjointed scenes and plots, and negative messages to females.
There were some plot issues. There are a lot of scenes in the book that are just characters talking that to do not tie in well to the central plot. This confused me. It felt contrived. Like her friend has a one-night-stand to lose her virginity and leaves, only so Allie would suddenly be alone. Her mother comes down for one day (because we all fly two hours and then leave) just to tell her she suddenly had a boyfriend who was moving in--so Allie would have no home to return to. It felt like random things to simply have the character be alone. Some things were never explained. Now, I've never been to New Orleans. I've heard the drinking age is 18 if a PARENT is with you. The fact Allie is drinking everywhere she goes at that age and no one questions or cards her seemed weird. Perhaps laws are slack in the city. In that case, as an 18-year-old from up north, she would be worried about it or marvel over this new freedom. There were many excuses the author could've made to explain it, but it was ignored.
This leads me to negative messages. I'm not going to bash the underage drinking; this is a New Adult novel. What I will bash is the girls' behavior around strange men. They are too trusting, allow strangers to buy and handle their drinks, walk away from their drinks, etc. I completely thought date rape was going to be a plot-point and thankful it wasn't. Girls! Watch your drinks at bars, please!
Some readers do love a domineering hero, so this book is for those readers only, not feminists. On the surface, Levi is attractive and has a devil-may-care quality. His witty remarks seem like a sexy flirtation until it keeps occurring after they're together and you just want Allie to punch him in the face. Underneath the surface, his actions prove he is arrogant, spoiled, and selfish. He is controlling and refuses to tell Allie anything, hiding things, and lies to her. Then when things are going well--even though she needs to leave town soon--he completely ruins Allie's life, stealing away all her options and putting a target on her head. She is stuck with him and in New Orleans forever. She doesn't accept his behavior, but you get the vibe she'll forgive him in the next book, since she loves the city and is attracted to him still. The message I'm getting is controlling, domineering men who strip you of your rights, autonomy, and your future are dreamy, as long as they love you.
Now, there are positives if you can get passed all of this. The premise is kind of cool and the supernatural being Levi is was creative. If the ending had been different, I would have less qualms with this book. Perhaps he redeems himself and changes throughout the series and I'm judging too quickly? I did like the rest of the characters including Allie who struggles with a mapped out life that rubs against her real needs; she is strong deep down, but it never rises to the surface because she is young and unsure. It all makes sense that she would go from controlling parents to a controlling boyfriend, but I wanted better for her. Also, the sexuality was tantalizing, not graphic, and well done.
If you prefer the domineering and controlling type of hero in your romance and don't consider yourself a feminist, you will probably enjoy Flight. It just wasn't for me but might be for you.
If you're not up to speed on a huge aspect of the writing community, there's an ongoing discussion about being a plotter or pantser. A plotter plans the writing process out, a pantser flies by the seat of his pants, planning nothing. Of course, most writers fall somewhere in between. I'm writing this post in response to a curious author's desire to know how a pantser actually writes. I could not explain it properly on Twitter in limited characters, so here we go.
Many plotters have asked how a pantser can possible write the way we do. The other way around is pretty easy for us pantsers to understand because plotters plan things out. True, there are many varying methods of how to plot, but these things can be researched or understood through different aspects of our lives--planning a trip/vacation, a child's birthday party, etc.--life is full of planning. But if you plot, you wonder how the hell pantsers are able to just write like these weird muse-driven demons. I'm going to explain my process with examples from how I wrote my novels. Forgive me being vague, since the first example is not out yet. Interestingly enough, they were written ten years apart so you might see how my methods have altered or stayed the same.
Quiver--publication date Feb. 2020--started in winter 2006
I had always planned out my writing when I was young but these were short stories or screenplay-type stories. My first two attempts at novels were planned out and left unfinished. I just deviated off the plan and ended up ruining them or getting stuck. I decided with the third attempt, I would simply use a prompt and plan nothing. I reread a Greek myth, hoping to recapture it in modern times, which is kind of cheating since the general plot is technically outlined. I sat down and started writing. I realized what I quickly ended up with was not a myth retelling, but a whole new story that used Greek gods alive today creating new stories. I kept on writing, not knowing myself what would happen next.
To describe the experience of one's mind when writing without a plan--I see my characters beginning to act out a scene. Perhaps in the back of my mind I know boy meets girl in this chapter, so I envision them in my mind as one would a movie. I don't have much control. My imagination plays the movie scene, and my fingers are busy recording it. I have little thought to the words I'm writing (that's what revision and editing is for), but just record this movie as quickly as possible. After I'm done that scene, I flesh out around it with needed info to make it a nice rounded chapter. I repeat this process.
Surprisingly, when I went to revise this completely unplanned manuscript, I recognized it had a legitimate plot structure and great character arcs; it was as solid as it would be if I had planned it all out. I did add a few chapters in here and there to connect my pantser scenes better, but then later on took a couple out. I do think a lifetime of plotting, reading many books, and my degrees in English did help me unconsciously write a solid plot, so if I tried pantsing without a background in writing, it might not have turned out so well. Regardless, I was onto a method that worked well for me.
Fyr--publication date July 2019--started in summer 2017
After I'd written quite a few pantser manuscripts, a couple published, a couple put aside for another day, I decided I wanted to write something new. A term popped into my head: the celestial spheres. I knew it was the ancient way to understand the universe, so I thought, maybe I could do a historical paranormal series. When I researched that term, I immediately knew I'd be writing a fantasy--not my strongest genre. Fyr is an elemental planet people had believed was there long ago, so this "planet" would be my setting. I was a no fantasy writer, so I pondered on whether to change genres or go with my instincts. Then I had a dream about a prince who had fire magic. One of my MC's was born.
I just started writing. I wrote his first chapter which inadvertently established his conflicts and that of his land. It would be too overwhelming to unload the entire land on the reader--one I hadn't fully developed yet--so knew the female MC would need to be us--someone entering this world unaware and learning. I added her chapter in before his. After that, I just wrote. I wrote scenes out of order, the climax before the middle, the romance peak and problems next, and exposition chapters last. I was stringing together scenes that my imagination ran like a movie again. A romance formed, lots of death-defying stakes, a villain appeared from what I had intended just to be a nuisance or roadblock character, and side characters became a bit more important inadvertently setting up plot threads for book 2. Checking back through, I had to add some transitional chapters between these scenes which opened more depth to my world building, but overall, again, a solid plot was there, character arcs were present, and for the first-time I had decently built a world. Fair play, the publishers did have to help me with a few aspects of my world, but as for plot, again the pantser method had worked for me.
What I hope I explained here was how this chaotic process can come together to make something brilliant. And I hope I clearly explained how my muse-driven imagination works by seeing the book play out like a movie, not thinking of words or plot points to get down. I hardly consciously think at all when I write. But I do think a lot when revising or editing. As always, the pantser method is no better or worse than plotting everything out. It is just different like all of our minds are, and if our minds are different, then it makes sense our imaginations run differently. I hope I shed some light on how the pantser brain works. Would any other pantsers like to add their methods, as I'm sure we all write differently?
YA Book Review:
Instinct, the sequel to Niki Cluff's Breed, and is an interesting, action-packed, continuation that leaves you wanting more. Spoilers! So please go back and read about book 1 if you have not, here
Kyle and her boyfriend Ichiro survived the meteor hitting Earth and the devastation of the end of the world as we know it. Feeling guilty about living while so many others have died, Kyle hacks into the compound's saved computers files only to find Hartman, their savior and nemesis, was tracking their families. What is strange is her family's last whereabouts were the caves and they might have survived after all; what is weirder even still is Ichiro's family aren't really dead--at least before the comet hit. Keeping this a secret from Ichiro creates a rift and they go their separate ways in search of their families. Kyle puts her life on the line escaping into the frozen wilderness on the dawn of a new ice age--with a murderer, a pregnant girl, and a crafty mechanic. Survival is slim when you have Hartman on your tail, survivors are desperate, and the temperatures are plummeting. Will Kyle ever find her family? Will she live to see Ichiro again? Will Ichiro make it back from his own quest to find his family?
Cluff continues with her penchant of well-told action sequences and strong plots that create page turners. The reader can tell it was heavily researched and crafted to persuade us this future world is real. Everything made sense. Kyle and Ichiro had to have a fight so they could plausible split up to look for their families as well shift their relationship into a new territory. The novel also grew the characters, developing them even more. The only negative thing I have to say is that I wanted more. It was over too soon, but I guess that is the point. At the end of Instinct, it is unclear whether a third installment is coming, but I know readers most likely want there to be. It remains to be seen if Cluff will return to it after her current project involving monster folklore haunting village kids which sounds equally tantalizing too.
If you like fast-paced books, check out Instinct here (after you've read book 1 Breed here).
Tales in Publishing:
I've spoken about my newest series in passing, and announced how it was my first completed novel (the story of how it got published a decade later here). However, I have gone silent about details since. A little backstory here. Quiver, book 1 of The Immortal Transcripts, was my first finished novel after lots of false starts. I made many revisions, had too many betas whose advice I listened too--all of their advice--destroying the book; then I had a student editor who helped me revamp it developmentally and grammatically. I still wasn't satisfied so I shelved it, pulling it out thinking of how I should revise it. As the article mentioned above outlines in more detail, it was queried, almost picked up, but I chose to stick to my vision rather than change everything just to get published. Back to the shelf it went.
Fast forward, I published a novella, and two novels. Even though I'm currently working on the Celestial Spheres series with my publishers, I wanted to see how they'd feel about The Immortal Transcripts as well. At this point, amazingly, I did not have to query--for the first time ever. I got to directly submit to the publisher. It was a heady feeling. It was accepted, and we've gone through developmental edits, making a few changes that don't alter my vision, a round of edits, and awaiting the last stage of copy edits, then proofing. We've discuss the cover, and it is being drawn up as we speak. Soon will be entering the marketing part where blurbs will be drafted and ads will be discussed. It's almost wrapped up, and I'm so excited for the world to see it.
In the meantime, in future posts, I'll release the pitch and query for the novel which I had used in the past and saw results from both. Even though the representation and I did not line up at the time, I had great results in sparking interest through my pitch and query. Stay tuned as I reveal details about the series, and I hope it alleviates the wait for those of you who are "dying" for the next Celestial Spheres book (July 2020). Quiver will hit shelves February 2020. Can't wait? Then check out my website for news about it here.
Tips for Writers:
Again, I love getting topics via Twitter's #writingcommunity. There's constantly talk within this community about the way in which writers generate their ideas. Basically, there are plotters and pantsers, and everything in between those two camps.
Plotter: a full-on plotter author will painstakingly plan everything out, chapter for chapter. I've seen spreadsheets, charts, outlines, post-it notes, etc. There are programs used, patterns followed like the snowflake method, books on plotting, and more. There's a stringent process that is created before they ever start writing the novel. Everything adheres to this pattern and is planned out with careful attention to characters arcs, plot lines, timelines, etc.
Those who know me might think that this is the type of author I am, since it is the type of person I am. I hate canceled plans, love routines--cannot function without them--and honestly, I'm anxious a lot. However, when it comes to creativity and writing stories, I've always been more of a loose cannon. Any rigidity is life-threatening to my creative juices. I think this stems from how my stories began--daydreams from an atypical kid.
Getting an education in Theater and English and becoming a college Lecturer taught me all the dynamics of what goes into character and plot. I know the structures and arcs necessary, but every time I tried to follow something plotted it was ignored for the greater attribute I had: imagination. I started calling it "the muse" because there was no other way to describe HOW I wrote. I pretty much see a movie in my head that I haven't ever planned out and record it in words. From my discoveries, this seems to be the same mentality as a lot of pantsers.
Pantsers: they fly by the seat of their pants. They're authors who just write and slap that imagination down on paper without worries or hindrances. They simply write and see what happens. Sometimes there may be a premise or not, or an idea of how it should begin and end. Sometimes they write their dreams down.
I'm a pantser and proud of it, but I'd never speak discouragingly of a plotter. From my study of writing in school and out of it, the quality of the final outcome isn't affected by how it began. Plotters seem to take much longer to write a draft, but draft 1 is usually much more polished than pantsers' draft 1. What it all comes down to is the author's ability to revise (plot, character, etc.) and editing (grammar, sentences, etc.). I've noticed the best writing I come across has had an ample amount of developmental revision as well as editing.
I have not talked about the in between process, which I would say the majority of authors fall into. They plot but the imagination sometimes leads the way. This, to me, seems like the perfect combo, but I could never emulate it. I've been flying by the seat of my pants--in only this aspect of my life--and I will continue to do so. But authors should do what they're most comfortable with and what works for them. One method is not better than the other; the debate simply shows us how creative minds vary.
So what type of first-drafter are you?
YA Book Review:
The Inevitable Fate
of E & J
The Inevitable Fate of E & J is an interesting story about past lives echoing into the future, showing great potential.
Elizabeth and Jimmy, former childhood friends who had a fallout, suddenly and inexplicably are drawn to each other after she turns sixteen, despite her having a boyfriend. Aside from this intense attraction, they have strange dreams, phantom pains, and hallucinations of what seems like someone else's past. Their personalities begin to change as well where Elizabeth casts aside the fake popular life and Jimmy works to prove himself worthy of her. Their love seems to blossom until a psychic tells them they must stay away from each other or something terrible will happen. They must decide whether or not to play it safe and break up or to risk everything for love.
There were some great things about this book and some things that I was not a fan of. Let's start with the cons, as there are only a couple. To me, the dialogue at times felt contrived, like an episode of Full House--you know, at the end, when everyone talks about their feelings/problems and sort through them calmly and therapeutically. Although this information is great for teens to read and emulate, people rarely sort through their feelings/problems easily and not everyone can spout out self-help advice to others who will calmly listen. I admit, since he had been through years of therapy, that Jimmy could have this allowance in his thoughts, but these heart-to-heart aloud conversations were a bit frequent to be believable. Second, there was repetition of characters' thoughts in the narrative. For example, both Jimmy and Elizabeth think about their fallout several times, rendering more detail each time about what happened, instead of just having one of them reveal the details earlier on. This happened with a couple other things in the novel as well. However, neither of these issues detracted too much from the overall enjoyment of the story.
The pros of this novel outweigh the cons. The concept of the entire story was neat and unique. One could say I've done a spoiler by explaining the past lives concept but this is clear in the first couple chapters. I love dramatic irony, so seeing the characters grapple to figure it out, when readers already know, keeps us turning pages. It makes sense it would take them a while to figure it out since the supernatural would never be anyone's first assumption, making this pretty realistic. I liked the character of Jimmy. He had a great backstory to explain his maturity and good nature. He was sweet, adorable, easy for Elizabeth to fall in love with. I disliked Elizabeth due to her treatment of Jimmy, and even though she acts like she's not comfortable with the superficial crowd she's in, her actions are very superficial. However, there is a great character arc where she changes for the better due to these past lives and Jimmy's positive influence over her. I love a good character arc and this one was done superbly. The dual POV was done well and the characters were believable. I'm a sucker for romance that has he said/she said views and this was done in an engaging way. Last, although I was not a fan of the self-help dialogue, the psychological aspects and understanding of therapy is well studied or researched--the author definitely knows what she's talking about. And I can see, despite my qualms for realism, that this would be beneficial for teens to read and sort out their feelings in positive ways.
Overall, I was delighted by the novel, and on learning this was a debut self-published novel, I was impressed with the execution (and I'm highly critical). I would recommend people give this novel a chance, particularly due to the entertainment value mixed with a fantastic price. Pick it up here.
Tales in Publishing:
Book Launch Parties
When I published my novella, it felt fantastic. We had an online book launch party for the entire anthology which was a fantastic learning experience. I was a bit sad though, as I couldn't have an in-person one with all my friends, you know the kind of posh event you see on TV and in movies.
Then I published a full-length novel, Apidae. It came out at a bad time financially and time-wise for me: five weeks before Christmas. Yes, this was good for sales, but I had no budget. Christmas presents must be bought. The end-of-the-semester crunch of paper grading was slaughtering me. I gave up on the idea of an in-person book launch--after I painstakingly made grand plans in my head I could never afford. The online launch was pretty successful though.
So when I published my second book, Fyr, in the summer, there were really no excuses since I wasn't teaching and no presents needed buying. And I figured, I deserved it, but I still needed to budget well. You must spend a good amount upfront with the expectation to only make some of it back.
It all started to take shape when I was talking about it at happy hour at a local bar/restaurant. The bartender, who is also manager and part owner, offered to let me have a party there for free. Since I had another book out already, I decided to have the party be a launch and signing combination and scheduled it 3 weeks after the second book was out. I did this so those who ordered it during the online book launch would have it delivered in time to be signed.
- Books. By far, the most expensive thing was buying the paperback books to sell. You do get a discount by ordering through publisher, but you still need to pay for printing and publisher's share of the the royalties. I played it safe, thirty books of each. Because most of my close friends who would come would've already bought it, I figured if I sold half that, it would be great. Then I could try to get the indie bookstores in the area to buy the rest or sell a few on Ebay autographed. Thirty would be easy to move, but fifty or more intimidated me.
- Door prizes. Everybody likes winning. For incentive to buy a book or to bring one to be signed, I decided to have a raffle. Grand prize was an Amazon giftcard, and I set up smaller gifts such as color changing mugs with the book cover on it thanks to the affordable Printifyus through Etsy, and a thematic gift of stone necklaces created by a little boy entrepreneur.
- Bookmarks. They are a must. I had 100 made by a very affordable company, GotPrint.com, that allowed me to design it through their online template. I urged everyone to take one, even strangers who happened to come take a peek at what was going on. They might just throw it away, but they could check it out, buy a book, or give it to someone who might be interested. The book marks were fairly cheap, so this was definitely worth it.
- Food. The idea of buying food and drink for my guests was going to be pricey, especially if a lot of people showed or if restaurant goers decided to join in to get free stuff. The alcohol consumption could be a liability issue as well. Research told me that book signings in bookstores would have no food or something simple like chocolates or cookies. I decided to serve thematic cookies that I made and guests could buy from the restaurant what they wished which would make the establishment money.
- Decor. Choosing a chill place and not renting it saved me loads. Their decor has a humble fishing pier vibe, so I simply decorated a table. I printed things out myself on special photo paper, used my crafting skills, and hit up the dollar store for table decorations.
- Invitations. I simply used Facebook to create an event through my author page, so it was free. It would take a lot of prep time to get everyone's address and to send off invitations. Not everyone sees these invites so a week before the party, I sent out personal messages. I only sent the message once weeks after the original invite; I didn't want to be too pushy or seemingly desperate.
In the end, only my friends came and a few strangers looked but didn't buy, which I heard can be common for a newly published author. My friends had held off on buying the books, so now bought them. I sold about twenty books altogether, and then eight more to people online who missed it but wanted an autographed copy (for this, I put the items in an Amazon cart to estimate tax and shipping). I have books left, but intend on keeping some on hand for another book launch in February for my next book. This time, I'll expect few people. Overall, it was a great learning experience, while I had fun with friends. I intend to do it again with lower expectations. Who knows, maybe this time I'll be surprised by more people.
Note: my area has zero book signing events, except one local bookstore that brings in authors sporadically. Otherwise, the closest place is two hours away and that is only for big-time best-selling, traditionally published authors who tour the nation. I'm hoping I'm onto a need in the area and get something going annually with other local authors.
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