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My Journey to Writing a Thriller Series

The Kelsey Porter Series

Ten years ago I set out on a journey to swallow my fears and publish my novels. After launching my quirky YA and fantasy books to some modest success, I decided I wanted to push myself and develop a new adult thriller series. But, I used my favorite authors, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, as my bar. Why? Because their books move me in ways other novels don’t. It takes a great writer to make me obsess about a character, and this series puts me squarely in the camp of my obsession with Aloysius Pendergast. Now, these authors also write novels on their own, but together, their Pendergast series is simply amazing. The novels are smart, savvy, with well-developed characters you want to love… and despise. I’m intrigued that they purposely add complicated words so that people will have to look up their meaning. I asked Douglas about this at a signing I went to of his and he said that it’s a conscious decision. They want readers to learn as they read their books and you can tell that everything they do, and every plot line, is researched meticulously.

Well, I wanted to develop a series like that, and one I thought they personally might enjoy. My goal was to hit on something different from what was in the field. Something spiritual, smart, singularly unique, and something that required a ton of research. While I’m no Preston/Child, I’m proud of myself. Four books into this series and I’m excited to say these authors DID like it. Douglas Preston actually read and reviewed Book #1 and it’s a great review you can read in “editorial reviews” for The Hunt For Xanadu on Amazon. Here it is here:

The Hunt for Xanadu by Elyse Salpeter is a remarkable novel, a fascinating and fantastical journey in time and space, and one of the most gripping novels I’ve read in a long time. It flies along at the pace of a thriller, with plenty of murder and mayhem along the way. But behind the thrill-ride is a spiritual story, an archetypal tale of mystery and darkness,riddled with fascinating and esoteric concepts in Tibetan Buddhism. Vivid characters, a truly appealing protagonist, unexpected twists, and crisp writing complete this unforgettable book. I can’t wait to read the next one in the series!

–Douglas Preston, #1 bestselling author and co-creator, with Lincoln Child, of the Pendergast series

So now there are four books in the series, they all have a Buddhist thriller flare, and they take you across the globe, from New York City and Colombia, to Alaska, Egypt and the monasteries of Tibet.

If you’d like to check them out, please click here to my author page on Amazon!

Today is my Birthday. Embracing myself, and my Curls.

Embracing my Curls

Embracing my Curls

Today I turned 49.

I have a hard time saying that without wanting to throw up a little in my mouth. 49. That means I’ll be 50 next year. When I was younger, I considered that old. But I don’t feel old. I feel like I’m 30. Not younger, because I’ve had kids, I’ve had jobs, I’ve lost people I loved. Life has afforded me the luxury to feel like I’m 30, but my body sometimes tells another story.

Those daily aches and pains getting up in the morning. (when did I start groaning when I got out of bed?) How I need to watch my sugar, watch my artificial sweetener intake, moisturize my skin, make sure I exercise and do everything I can so I “don’t get old.” I don’t want to become that person that just sits in a chair all day and watches the world go by. I don’t want to be that person that says, “I want to live my life the way I want to live and if that means eating jelly donuts when I have diabetes, that’s quality of life!” No it isn’t. That’s denial and I don’t want to live sickly and then die early because I chose to continually make choices that hurt me.

When I get to 50, I want to be fit. I want to be healthy. I want to do a photo shoot for everyone IN A BIKINI saying “This is 50!” (not that I ever really wore a bikini, nor probably should at that age, but I’d like to try). And I’d like to learn to embrace my curls instead of flat-ironing them all the time. I live in New York and straight hair is golden here. Heck, there are Dry Bars all over where you can go in and get a blow-out. But, it’s time to be me every now and then. For my birthday I just went out and bought all these Deva products for curly hair. Spent a small fortune, but NY humidity in summer is nothing to joke about, folks.

Boot Camp RopeI made a bunch of goals for myself when I turned 40. I was going to start publishing my books. (I did, and now have 9 out!), I wanted a famous author to read one of my books AND LIKE IT! (Douglas Preston gave me a review for THE HUNT FOR XANADU!), I was going to start Tae Kwon Do. (I did and 5 years later got my black belt!). I took a serious boot camp class for five months and wanted to be able to climb up the rope to the ceiling (did it!) And I wanted to travel someplace crazy with my family. (we went on an Alaskan cruise!)

But now I want to conquer a whole new group of goals. Some will take a few years, but some I want to do before my next birthday. So here they are:

I want to run a 1/2 marathon. I want to lose 15 lbs and get in good enough shape to do that bikini shot for my next birthday. I want to go to Italy and other places around the world I’ve never been. I want to visit my mom more. I want to take my daughter on a vacation somewhere, just the two of us. I want to be a raging success at my new job, and I want to publish the next book in my Kelsey Porter Series. I’d also LOVE to take singing lessons. I want to go to Karaoke one day and surprisingly be able to belt out a song by Celine Dion or Kelly Clarkson and shock the people around me who never thought I could sing. I think that would be a hoot.

So, remember… bikini shot at 50 next year. Put it out to the universe, do the work and just maybe it will happen. And what do you think of the curls? They work? I think they may be a keeper!

The Pitfalls of Writing Cross Genre

THE WORLD OF KAROV - New Adult Dark Fantasy series

THE WORLD OF KAROV – New Adult Dark Fantasy series

Someone once told me that I “published wrong.” The first book I ever published was a young adult tale called FLYING TO THE LIGHT about a deaf boy who knows about the afterlife and now people are after him. The second book I published was a fantasy novel, more New Adult in target, the third was the sequel to FLYING TO THE LIGHT, called FLYING TO THE FIRE and the 4th was the sequel to the dark fantasy book.

So, what does that mean? I’m a YA novelist, right? Well, no. I actually define myself as an adult thriller/horror writer, if asked. Those YA books I had mostly written years ago and had the opportunity to publish them first. Since then, the books that I’ve put out are all adult thrillers or horror.

There’s the Kelsey Porter series which are sexy buddhist thrillers, and two horror novels. The pitfalls of writing cross genre is that some of my YA fans have picked up the thrillers and been… well… surprised. The YA books were very clean… albeit a bit violent as I tend to write that way, but they weren’t adult books. As a result, I’ve had to caveat to a lot of people whether or not their children can read any of my other books. Usually I tell them “no.” Not that it’s erotica – it’s not at all, and not that they’re dirty, they’re not, but they have adult themes and are just not what I’d picture a kid could read.

That said, my daughter read my horror novels just fine at the age of thirteen and my fourteen year old son wishes to read THE HUNT FOR XANADU. I think he’s two years too young, but he’s adamant so we discuss it chapter by chapter. Books #2 and #3 in the series are “more tame” to be honest. But there’s a reason I set up Book #1 the way I did. You’d have to read it to find out or it would be a huge spoiler.

FLYING - Young Adult Series

FLYING – Young Adult Series

I find I’m getting mostly fans now with my adult books, but then these same people will go back to read my YA books and I wonder if they get confused or upset? They are all so different and you wonder if the pitfalls of writing cross genre means you confuse your readers if they wish to read other works by you, thinking they’ll be similar. That said, I would just advise authors to make sure you’re very clear in the book blurbs what the books are about and what genre it is so there are no surprises.

On my webpage at www.elysesalpeter.com I have headers for all the genres, and hope that makes it more clear for people.

Kelsey Porter thriller series

Kelsey Porter thriller series

As to the “publishing wrong” comments? Well, not much I can do about that. I write what I write, when I write it. It’s how my brain works. But I don’t think the cross genre is a bad thing. I actually write in one genre, but across different age groups. All my books have a fantastical element to them. In the FLYING SERIES it was the young boy who knew about the afterlife, in the NA WORLD OF KAROV Dark Fantasy Series, it was an evil spreading across the universe, in the KELSEY PORTER series, they’re adult Buddhist Spiritual Mysteries. I was just lucky enough that a publishing house picked one of them up and it just morphed from there. When you have an arsenal of books in your library waiting to get out to the world, do you just let them sit there because you want to be a specialist in one genre or the other, or do you let them be free? I decided to publish them all and let the chips fall as they may.

Horror Novel - "I beg of you... stay away..."

Horror Novel – “I beg of you… stay away…”

A collection of creepy horror tales...

A collection of creepy horror tales…

Anyone else write cross genre? Do you as a reader find it confusing when an author mixes things up in this fashion or do you like it? Love to hear.

If you’d like to check out all the novels, here’s my amazon author page: http://amzn.to/1NiXfjT

Why Fiction Writers Should Write Poetry

I’m going to start by saying that I don’t really consider myself a poet. I’ve never quite understood it, I never caught on to the rhyming and cadence. I just didn’t get it. I thought you were either a good fiction writer or poet, much like people say you’re either a good baker or cook. I’m learning that neither are mutually exclusive.

About two weeks ago, my editor suggested I start writing poetry. Now, you need to understand “her suggestions” are never just light suggestions. They mean something… and it usually means work on my end. She’s not your typical editor. She’s also a teacher and when she sees something in your writing she thinks you could use to improve yourself to become a better writer, well, she tells you. (if you’re interested in this type of editor who teaches as well as edits, check Denise Vitola out here) Anyway, she suggested I go to this new Facebook page called Peanut Butter & Poetry Jam and look at the image prompt they put up on Saturdays. The concept is you write a poem in the comments and then on Thursdays they pick a poem to discuss on Fridays. She said this would be a good exercise for me and “it was suggested” I do this each Saturday. (hmm…suggested, ordered, take your pick).

Created by Beth Ann Ryden

Created by Beth Ann Ryden

But I did. Strangely, my poem got chosen the first week. I’ll be honest, I didn’t spend a lot of time on it. Nor my entry for the second week. It wasn’t that I didn’t care. Normally I agonize over work that goes public, but I have no real idea of what I’m doing, nor any idea of what I should even agonize about. But, while I’m self-conscious and it feels like my entries are lame, I’m trying. And apparently, they seem to be passable and getting some nice feedback. Come on over and like the page and put in a poem. No cost, no competition, just feedback. Please don’t be fearful. I’ve talked to people who want to do it, but get scared they will be judged. I promise you, this isn’t that kind of place. If I can do it, by all means you can. Here was my entry last week with the gorgeous photo prompt created by Beth Ann Ryden.

My Entry:

“How often does the sea meet the sky, papa?”
“As often as the sun rises and sets, the moon waxes and wanes, and the tides flows in and out. As often as the dolphin breaks the surface to breathe, the fish swim in schools and the earth spins. The sea meets the sky from the moment you wake, to the moment you sleep. Rise up, dear daughter and meet the sky, for wonders will be met and joy will be felt when your face touches the sun.”

So I started thinking… am I a poet? Have I ever been? I was in the attic last night and I actually found this poem I wrote when I was about twelve. I remember thinking back then I still had no idea what I was doing, but you can see the joy in it. The way I circled the “dots above my “i’s,” the little doodle drawings on the margins like kids do.

One of my earlier efforts - might have been 12 yrs old?

One of my earlier efforts – might have been 12 yrs old?

Do you write poetry? How do you feel about it? Love to hear!

Make one Tiny Change for Big Results…

changeChange is hard for most people. We get stuck in our ways and prefer to be comfortable. It’s easier to sit on a couch and eat chips than it is to take a jog outside and grab an apple instead. It’s hard to change a career later in life for fear of failure. It’s hard to talk to someone about how you really feel, just letting everything sit in your gut instead, so you don’t have to deal with confrontation. It’s hard to reach out to ask someone for their help, for fear of rejection.

But if we don’t change certain things in our lives, then our bad habits, or simply habits, will control us and bring us down.

Food: I realize I’m addicted to sugar. Just love it. On my yogurt, in my cereal, candy bars, and when I drink coffee, three heaping tablespoons is my preferred amount of sugar inducing coma. Well, my family is riddled with diabetes. I realize I am also not feeling so great these days and while a blood test said I’m totally fine, I think I need to get this addiction under control. I switched to artificial sweetener in my coffee, but honestly, that’s worse for me than sugar. It’s like putting cardboard or poison or plastic into my system on a daily basis and guess what? I still don’t feel well. So, I made a tiny change just a few days ago. Did you know that cinnamon is a sweetener at its core? I am a coffee snob and at first refused to try it, but then realized I love Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Soy Lattes and the Cinnamon Dolce isn’t bad (NOTE: they are FULL OF SUGAR so of course I love them). But, now every morning in my coffee I use just one teaspoon of sugar and sprinkle Cinnamon into it and while it is not nearly as sweet as I normally crave, it’s completely acceptable. (I wonder if a Cinnamon stick would be good, too? Hmmm) Not to mention Cinnamon is used to help treat muscle spasms, vomiting, diarrhea, infections, the common cold, loss of appetite, and may lower blood sugar in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, according to Diabetes UK.

Jobs: I changed my job six weeks ago. I am learning things that I never learned before, lingo that I’ve never heard, getting eye rolls from people younger than me when I ask a question that seems like a no brainer. Sigh… luckily I catch on quick and most times you only have to tell me the answer once! But the fact is, I had to change what I was previously doing in order to learn something new in my field. I had to make this change to continue to be relevant in my industry. (I’m in publishing advertising sales by the way) It was scary. It IS scary. I want to know everything right now. I want to be successful right now. But the last thing I want to do in this life is say I didn’t try.

Promotions: We all know I write. I have been building my “critical mass” (fancy shmancy word for social media fan base) and have done all the necessary things. But something I need to do is get blurbs for my book cover The Hunt for Xanadu. I just got up the guts to ask a very well-known author for a blurb. There is a very good chance he will ignore me or say no. He writes in my genre and we “casually” know each other, meaning I’ve met him multiple times and he’s responded to my emails. In fact, he has the book. I mailed it to him two years ago because we’d met and I was supposed to also send him something else, so I put my book in here. But I never got the guts to ask him if he would do a blurb. I guess I’m afraid he’ll reject me, read the novel and dislike it, or just not talk to me any more out of embarrassment. It could be any number of things. The fact is, if I don’t ask, I’ll never give myself the luxury of ever hearing a “yes.” P.S. I asked him three days ago – haven’t heard a peep yet.

So, making tiny changes. I know it’s not New Year’s and it’s September, but there’s no better time than the present to make a change for the better. Think of one thing you can do that is outside your norm and try it. One thing to change your life in just a teeny way. Love to hear what you come up with.

Life is about Choices, Take a Chance…

chancesI thought I’d chat today about choices. I have seen so many people in my 40+ years remain in jobs they dislike out of fear of never finding another one, I’ve seen writers leave all their ideas hidden in their computers for fear of people laughing at them, I’ve seen heavy people stay in their homes and hide from the world because of the fear of ridicule.

Fear is all around us. Cooking for friends- what if you screw it up and everyone hates what you make? Throwing a party – what if no one comes? Falling in Love – the risk of being hurt.

For whatever beliefs you hold, the fact is, you go through this particular life just once. You can hide from the world, or you can live it. The trick is to take that fear and shelve it.

I’m not going to lie – publishing all my books is terrifying, even now. I mean it, it’s terrifying when you hit that publish button. It’s terrifying sending first drafts to my editor, or a beta reader. What if they hate them? No one likes to be upset, no one likes to be embarrassed, no one likes criticism, and certainly no one likes to be laughed at.

But, life is about chances. You need to look in yourself and decide if that chance is worth it for your own personal growth. I’ve written two books that right now are pretty much done and sitting in my computer for years. Both are Dark Romantic Suspense books but I have not put them out to the world. Why? Because they are violent and sexually charged books. Different than my regular more tame Adult thrillers, Horror and YA thriller books. At their core they are both love stories, but… well… I’m embarrassed. Here I am talking about taking chances, yet I don’t listen to my own advice. I’m grappling with releasing them because I fear people judging me with these two books. The fact is, they are fiction and they are suspense thrillers, written with much of the same flavor as my other books, but I’ve upped the ante. I think the stories are pretty great and exciting too and I know there is a market out there, but I just have to get the guts to put them out.

I actually started querying agents for one of the books. Twenty-six agents since February who represent this type of work. Ten wrote back “no thanks” and the others simply ignored me. Typical, but man, when you’re a person nervous about something like this, it hits you in your core. If an agent won’t even peek at it, does it really suck? My editor read my query and said it was great and sound, and I believe her. People I’ve spoken to think the concepts of the story are sound too, so do I keep submitting these babies to agents, or just publish them myself? I’m stalled because of my fear.

The fact is, I really do believe in taking chances. The last thing I want to do is end my life and regret not doing something out of fear. That’s a sad way to live if all you do is worry about how other people perceive you, but we’re human and it’s in our nature.

So, I implore all of you to take a chance today. It can be a little chance, it can be a big one, but really think about what you would love to do one day and just do it. I swear, deep in your core, you will be more satisfied with yourself.

I wish all of you well on anything you choose to do. Me? Step one is telling people in my circle about these books. It’s my teeny step forward listening to their thoughts about it… and you want to know what? They’re supportive so far.

There you go.

Priorities – Picking the Most Important Ones Can be Difficult…

prioritiesPriorities: According to the dictionary this means “a thing that is regarded as more important than another” or “the right to take precedence or to proceed before others.” I’d like to talk about this.

I have two kids. I work all week. When I’m home, they are both vying for my attention and the issue is, neither of them wants to share me because they want me for themselves. If I try to do a dinner together, they balk, try to go somewhere together, they complain. So, I’m stretched. I get it, I really do, but with time being so limited I wish I could be with both of them together and have them be happy about it, but they’re not. So what I try to do is carve out alone time with each of them, a few hours here and there with just one at a time. Neither of them is completely satisfied with this arrangement because as soon as I’m home and switch kids, the other one gets mad at me again. Sigh…

Today is a tough one. One kid just got braces and he’s been miserable for days. The other has a martial arts tournament today. This tournament is about 30 minutes away and I would be sitting most likely in a gym for 6 hours to watch one minute of performing. The fact is, I wanted to go to the tournament to support her and she wanted me to watch her, but the one miserable at home wanted me to stay with him. If I choose one kid over the other, the other child is most definitely going to feel slighted. One will feel that I don’t value them enough to take the time to watch them, and the other is upset because mommy is not there to make them feel better.

So, what do you do? After much grappling, I chose to stay with the kid that wasn’t feeling well and now I’m in the dog house with the other. Her dad went instead and she’s annoyed with me. I feel like I can never win. I truly believe illness trumps all. My son needs comfort today, meds given on time so he feels better, soft foods. Priority made, but I’m still upset that I can’t be in two places at once.

It’s like that with my writing life, too. What are my priorities? Building my Social Media platform? Tweeting, Facebooking, Google+ing, Blogging regularly? Finding an agent? Querying contests? Learning how to do a mailing list? Making a treatment for Hollywood? Advertising? Book Store appearances? Creating give-a-ways? Creating Pinterest boards for your books? Signing up for a Conference? Querying media? Getting reviews?

Do you see a problem with anything in this list above? Where is “writing?” It’s not even there because as indies we are required to do everything else to gain any modem of success. I can’t tell you how many writers feel like there is so much to do, that writing has not become the main priority any longer. And they’re pained by it. They miss it, but they’re trying so hard to be successful, there are simply not enough hours in the day to get it all done.

So I go back to the definition of priorities above and realize that what is most important in my writing life has to be the writing. I find I get mired in all the rest of the conversation and marketing minutia and have to step back to basics or I’ll never get projects out.

In life, in lieu of time, hard choices are going to have to be made. Decisions are going to have to be brought down to basic needs. For family it will be “which kid needs me most at this time” and in writing it has to be “getting the words down on paper.” No matter what I do, someone is going to be unhappy and some project is going to get put on the back burner. Both are important, but I have to make a decision. In these cases, it simply means that “for that moment in time” I had to make the priority to get what had to be done first.

Tonight I’ll take kid #2, who is unhappy I didn’t go to her tournament, out to dinner alone to celebrate, and maybe later today I’ll work on social media, but for now, I’m with my sick kid and after this blog, as my son is on the computer, I’ll work on Book #3 in my Kelsey Porter Series.

It’s all about priorities and nothing about them is ever easy. Love to hear your thoughts on this.