Tag Archive | author

It’s Taken Me Seven Books to Finally Call Myself a Writer

I can’t speak for the rest of you, but when I started writing and publishing my novels, I kept expecting people to “discover what a fake” I was. I mean, I couldn’t wrap my head around calling myself a writer, even though I had a book out.

Then, I published a second one and most people still thought it was a cute little hobby. A cute little hobby I sweated and slaved over, got edited, beta’d, proofed, worked on covers, formatting, advertised, etc. Then, came numbers three and four and people thought, “wow, how adorable, she’s really trying to do this.”

I wondered when the day would come when someone said, “Hey, what do you do?” and I’d say “Oh, I’m a writer.” (without being embarrassed) Is it because I still don’t bring in enough money to actually write full time? Or something else? All I know is that publishing is vastly different than it was twenty years ago. I swear if I had done this back then, I may have been more successful. Well, maybe. For me, now, I’ve accepted that it’s going to be a slow and steady process. My goal has always been to get the books out and THEN to get the series out for each one. I was told I actually did it backwards, that I should have concentrated on one series at a time, but that wasn’t how life worked out. I had single books written, so I put them in market, and as the muse hit me, I wrote the sequels.

And that’s where I am today with the Kelsey Porter Series. I wrote THE HUNT FOR XANADU, which is book #1 in the series and next month I’m publishing THE QUEST OF THE EMPTY TOMB, book #2 in the series. I have high hopes for this series and my desire is that it continues for many books to come. So, to wrap up this entire post, I guess after this novel finally launches, and I officially have seven books in market, I can officially answer the question, “What do you do?” with “I’m a writer.” (hey, I didn’t even cringe too much writing that!)

FB cover all books

Interested in learning more about this series? I just got a fantastic review from a Top 500 Amazon Reviewer just a few days ago. Feel free to read it here: http://www.amazon.com/review/R2LKVFHKRYK06C/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00H6TM1MI

For any writers out there – how many books did it take for YOU to consider yourself a writer? Love to hear!

Do You Have Unfinished Manuscripts?

unfinishedHow many of us have unfinished works in our computers? I bet a lot. Sometimes we get an amazing idea for a story, we furiously write it down, come up with characters, develop and plot and after feverishly working on it for days and weeks at a time…. it fizzles. Why does this happen? I can blame writer’s block, lack of time, computer problems, but that’s usually not it. You can always come up with some excuse, but for me, the real reason is that I probably got bored. And if “I” get bored with my own story, you can imagine how readers might feel. That’s not necessarily a bad thing and it doesn’t mean I’m not capable of finishing a book… just maybe not this one.

The question begs, what do you do with these stories? Especially those that are halfway, to three-quarters of the way, written? Can they be saved? Do you even want to save them? Should you finish them as an exercise and put them in a special “where the sun don’t shine” file, or do you occasionally take them out, dust them off and try to “fix” them? I have four novels in various stages of production. Some are in genres I never usually write in and I use these books to “play.” When I need a break from a serious WIP, but still want to write, I go to these “where the sun don’t shine” novels and work on them. Some of them are actually decent, some of them are terrible and some of them I will never show anyone because of subject matter (you fill in the blanks 😉 ) But the fact is, they are there, I know they’re there and I don’t necessarily want to let them go.

I wondered if I were the only author that has unfinished works in their arsenal. This week I asked authors Charity Parkerson and C.K. Raggio for their input on this subject. They had some great, thought provoking responses.

Question #1) Do you have any unfinished works? Or do you have stories you start but don’t finish and what do you do with them?

C.K. Raggio: I have quite a few short stories in numerous notebooks near my desk. When I get frustrated or stuck on whatever novel I’m writing (and hard liquor and yanking out my hair doesn’t cut it) I take out a short and work on that instead. It helps me to clear my mind and refocus. It also gives me a feeling of accomplishment once I get to the end of a draft and feel like I’ve improved on it.

Charity Parkerson: I have one book in particular that has sat on my computer for over a year now that I’m beginning to think will never be complete. While writing A SPLASH OF HOPE I always intended for it to have a sequel, but so far, it’s not happening. Sometimes if I have several things that are around 1000 words, I’ll find a way to piece them together to start a new story and it will spark an idea.

Question #2) Do you think it’s okay for writers to have stories that never get finished?

C.K. Raggio: Definitely. I think sometimes a story starts in our head but isn’t ready to be completed. Sometimes we need to grow in our own lives before we are finally able to go back and finish the story’s journey. I believe every tale we tell in some way is connected to our experiences, fears, goals and ultimate dreams. Life will sometimes throw a curve ball and a course we thought we were following changes direction, so even if a story is never finished it’s not a bad thing, it just means we may have drastically changed before we had a chance to polish it to perfection.

Charity Parkerson: I think every writer does have stories that never see the light of day. If in the end it doesn’t work for them then most likely it’s not going to work for readers. Writing is never a waste of time, but not everything is right for publication.

Wise words, ladies. I agree with everything you’re saying and love the idea that maybe sometimes we need to “grow into our lives” before we can finish them. And I love the concept that even if we don’t finish, it’s not a waste of time because it might “spark other ideas.” Really great advice.

For more information about the authors above, please feel free to contact them here:

Charity Parkerson is an award-winning author of several books including 15 Amazon bestsellers. She can always be reached on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/authorCharityParkerson You can also check out one of her novels, THE SEXY & THE UNDEAD at http://www.amazon.com/The-Sexy-Undead-Witches-ebook/dp/B00CLYIMD0/ref=sr_1_6?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1373661362&sr=1-6&keywords=charity+parkerson

C.K. Raggio is a thriller/horror writer with a taste for the dark side. Her debut novel HERON PARK is available on Amazon at http://amzn.to/Wx537w You can visit C.K. at her website http://www.ckraggio.com/

The Creation Process – How does your muse like to work?

writingI am the type of author who craves utter silence when I write. That includes interruptions at any time, including quietly slinking into the room to simply “get something” even though no one actually speaks to me. I find that just as distracting as if I’d stopped to have a conversation. I’ve tried to explain that “when a writer is on a roll and stops writing for any reason that means THAT particular train of thought is GONE forever.” Yes, I know we can start again, but it will never be what it was and that makes me a little crazy. The frustrating part is, the people around me really and truly don’t understand this and they think I’m being unreasonable.

Ideally, I like to sit on my bed with my laptop on my lap, fan or A/C going and just have a block of an hour to let the words come. There are days I need more time. Much more time, but I have kids, a life, a husband, a job, and those get in the way. Other days I get a little stuck or bored and just have to take a break, but I like the control of my own muse, without interruptions. I’ve tried going to a coffee shop or the library, but those little whispered conversations around me, crinkling of a candy wrapper, the tinny sound of someone’s music leaking from their ear buds – they bother me. I must have some sort of sensory issue. In school during testing “I” was the one “shushing” the teachers who were quietly chatting at the front of the room. Come on! We’re working here!

I wondered if I was alone in how we create, so I asked two writers, Mitchel Whitington and Gwen Choate this very question. I also wanted to find out their most gratifying moments. Writing takes so much time out of our lives, there has to be something gratifying in it for all of us, right?

Question #1) What is your writing set-up and what do you need to write?

Mitchel Whitington: It all depends on my mood. If I’m really in the zone, I like it quiet and dark. My office has black-out curtains to help me create this environment. There are other times when I put on instrumental music (one of my favorites is Cirque du Soleil’s soundtrack “Mystere”) and light incense. Darkness is still important, though.

Gwen Choate: I prefer to work at my computer, which sits in the corner of a small room, surrounded by my dictionary and thesaurus, research material, and the copy in progress. I have a laptop, but I get a backache trying to position myself when I use it very long at a time. I, too, like solitude.

Question #2) Can you share some gratifying moments?

Mitchel: My biggest one came from a book that I wrote a long time ago. It was humor fiction, and I had a lot of fun with it. At a book signing, a lady asked me to sign her dad’s book. He had just died, and his sunday school class had purchased it for him to read in the hospital. The lady told me that he’d read it and laughed throughout, even toward the end when she was having to hold the book for him and turn the pages, because her dad was too weak to do it himself. There were tears in her eyes when she told me that my book was the last thing that her dad laughed at in his life. I still get tears in my eyes when I think of that.

Gwen: There are so many. When I sold BUFFALO GOLD, the Abilene Reporter-News did a two-page spread about how I, as a woman, broke the taboo against female authors of westerns. SACK has had wonderful publicity in the Nacogdoches newspaper, and I was given a book signing which was attended by sixty-five people and generously covered by publicity. Then more recently I was privileged to join a friend at a Kroger’s Supermarket and sell copies of THE SACK, which were charged to the customers’ Kroger cards . . . followed by the wonderful KTRE-TV interview.

So there you have it. I personally know people who can exercise and write at the same time on some contraption they set up on their treadmill (I can’t drink and walk at the same time, so I’m continually stumped how they do this). I know others who prefer blaring music, but most seem to love the solitude that allows their muse to truly come forward.

And then there are the gratifying moments we all love. For me, the most gratifying moment came when I had a library chat. A sixteen year old boy came with his dad, armed with three pages of questions. He stayed until the end of my talk, waited to speak to me, told me how much he loved my book, asked me to sign it and then asked if he could ask me some questions. You see, he wanted to become a writer and wanted to get “a real writer’s” perspective on some things. A real writer? Me?! Wow. For me, that was my first time hearing from someone I didn’t know how they felt about the book, validating my hard work and wanting MY advice. It felt great.

To find out more about the authors above, they can be reached here:

Gwen Choate’s YA novel, THE SACK, was nominated by Texas Librarians for the Star of Texas Award as a best Middle School book. It is available on Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/The-Sack-ebook/dp/B00CD5VBTO/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_kin?ie=UTF8&qid=1371494846&sr=8-1&keywords=the+sack+gwen+choate She can also be reached on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/gwenchoate

Mitchel Whitington is an author and speaker from the piney woods of East Texas. Over a dozen of his books have been published over the last decade, and he has contributed to as many anthologies. You’ll find Mitchel speaking around the country at workshops and conferences. Mitchel lives in a historic 1861 home in Jefferson, Texas, where he lives with his wife Tami, two basset hounds, and several resident spirits. You can contact him at: mitchel@whitington.com.

Love Your Characters, But Not Too Much – you might have to kill them off one day…

killingI don’t know about other writers, but when I write a character in one of my novels, I’m already infatuated with them. Even if they’re a one chapter, throw-a-way character. I’ve thought about them, I’ve created a profile, traits and quirks and depending on their story arc, a whole back story… But, I’ve learned that I can’t get too invested in these characters because they might just be killed off. And not by me, but by my editor.

Let me explain. In my most recent WIP, I started the novel with 3 main characters, 6 supporting characters, and a host of other minor characters.

By the time my editor went through the first 3 chapters, I received a little note… “Lyse, I’d like to talk to you about Sean…” Sean was a main character and a sidekick of the main detective in the novel, who helps my main protagonist, Kelsey. My editor and I had a few conversations and I realized that Sean didn’t need to be in the book. He was only in the beginning and while I had devoted whole chapters to him, he wasn’t going to be integral to the climax of the novel. Into the trash he went, along with 2 chapters… (Character #1)

Then came a scene where my protagonist is having dinner with all her friends… People important to her life… 3 of them only show up in that chapter… Into the trash they went… (#2, #3, #4) along with an entire scene of them.

Then my protagonist has a flashback and we get to see what she was like as a teen… for me this was an integral scene where she is confronted by 4 bullies and has to protect her friends and we see her strength and resilience… My editor’s take? “Now, don’t let your emotion sway you on this chapter. The reader knows that Kelsey is beautiful, powerful and a force to be reckoned with. You don’t have to pound it into their heads. Too much attention to the childhood is going to turn off the readers who want a thriller, not heavy on the kids.”(#5, #6, #7, #8 characters… gone)

And then, I lost two boyfriends… sigh… I wrote two flashbacks about her growing up, two (what I thought) were great scenes, but just background fluff. Into the trash they went along with their two chapters. (#9 and #10). I’ll be honest, I argued about this for at least 3 days and refused to let them go. I thought they were important, and I LIKED them! My editor’s advice? “Delete them. It slows the scene down. Get rid of it.” I know that sounds harsh, but she was right. I thought I might want to bring these characters back at some point in a future book and that’s why I needed to have them in the book. Her advice? “No, you don’t have to mention them in the first book. There is no law that says every character you ever want in your series has to be foreshadowed. Just trot them in there when you need them. What would prevent your character from recalling this fellow when he shows up in book two?” My editor let me “mention” them somewhere else in the novel. Two lines as a side note. But you know what? It worked. The book is a thriller and those scenes would have simply slowed down the pace.

Now, I won’t lie, deleting characters and chapters are a killer for me, as I’m sure it is for others. Know what I do to lessen the pain? I save them in a file called “Deleted chapters” and I feel like I haven’t entirely killed them off. They’re still sitting there in all their lovely glory… just not in the story. Hey, if their back story is sound, maybe I can bring them back one day… right? Right?

My editor is doing a special until Labor Day. Normally she charges $4 a page, but she’s only charging $2 a page, doublespaced, for your manuscript. If you wish to take your writing up to the next level and have a fantastic writing coach work with you, with the work personalized specifically to your novel, I highly recommend her. Here’s her website: http://www.thomas-talks-to-me.com/editing/index.html

Why I Need an Editor Part #2

As I slowly move through my recent WIP (work in progress), my editor, Denise Vitola, is pointing out things that I never really thought about before. For instance, the word “very.” I like this word. If I’m happy, I’m usually very happy. If I’m tired, I’m usually very tired. Maybe I’m a girl of extremes, but I use this word to make my adjectives stronger and to show that “I’m really serious about this feeling.”

Alas, I’ve been instructed to “banish the word ‘very’ from my manuscript.” This word, along with other descriptive words like “extremely, ridiculously and amazingly.” Why? Because these words don’t give the reader any sort of real visual. There is always a stronger word to use. My thought to my editor was, “but why must we explain everything? Can’t we let our readers figure anything out for themselves or create whatever description they’d like themselves?” Her answer? “No.”

Her explanation and suggestions are this: If I say “the girl is very beautiful.” Denise says “the girl is either beautiful or she’s not. You can use a much better word.” Hence, if she’s THAT beautiful, well, “the girl is stunning.”

Along these same lines: “He is ridiculously funny.” Nope, he’s either funny or he’s not, or he’s HILARIOUS. “She is very cold.” If she is very cold, isn’t she “freezing? “She is very smart.” Actually, that means “she’s brilliant.” You get the idea.

Denise believes that as writers we must find ways to describe the situation visually to our readers. We must choose words that are stronger and have more description to them.

I agree and I’m very happy about her comments… Actually “I’m ecstatic!”

For anyone interested in working with a great editor – Denise is doing a special until Labor Day. Normally she charges $4 a page, but she’s only charging $2 a page, doublespaced, for your manuscript. If you wish to take your writing up to the next level and have a real writing coach work with you, with the work personalized specifically to your novel, I highly recommend her. Here’s her website: http://www.thomas-talks-to-me.com/editing/index.html

Interview with Carolyn Arnold

Books by Carolyn Arnold    Books by Carolyn Arnold

I have been so fortunate to meet wonderful authors over the past few months and what I’ve noticed is the complete lack of competitiveness between all of them. I’ve never met a group of people so willing to help each other out. Carolyn Arnold is no exception. She has written several novels across a multitude of genres and has created an amazing blog called Celebrating Authors, where she promotes other writers’ upcoming projects with snapshots, announcements and interviews on their current works.

So, to continue with my love of bringing authors to my blog, hailing all the way from Canada, please allow me to present the multi-talented Carolyn Arnold.

1) So, Carolyn, please tell us about your upcoming book and what it’s like writing a series?

SACRIFICE is the third in The Madison Knight Series. Designed to be a stand-alone series, it follows Major Crimes Detective Madison Knight in her drive to find justice for the victims of horrendous crimes, despite the ever-impeding domination of male superiors.

Here’s the book blurb for SACRIFICE:

When the son of business tycoon Marcus Randall, washes up on the shore of the Bradshaw River, Detective Madison Knight must sacrifice everything—including her career—to find justice for the “perfect murder”.

With Marcus Randall already on the radar of the Secret Service for fraud and counterfeiting, the investigation sheds new light, and they require the full co-operation of the Stiles PD. But with power and money to back him, Marcus has a reach that extends right inside the police department.

If Madison’s going to find out the truth, she’ll have to sort through the lies and balance diplomacy with politics.

~~

As for writing a series, it can be both comfortable and difficult.  While you might know the characters quite well you have to be certain to keep things consistent.  This can be a trick, and that’s why it’s a good idea to keep good notes on everyone, and everything that has gone in a novel.

2) I completely understand about keeping notes. So many times we change or add things to a novel and being consistent with our characters is so key. How did you come up with the idea for this particular book?

Actually, it was inspired from real-life.  I used to work for a father and son.  The son never seemed to take any responsibility in life, and his father was left to clean up after him.

3) I believe taking facets from real-life can truly bring a book alive and is very relatable to readers. Do you research a lot?

Most definitely.  Also, when I research I cross-reference to make sure that I have a solid understanding of the material.  With TIES THAT BIND, I recently received some high praise from an ex-cop who spent 30 years on the job.

This is his review in part:  “Police Procedural at its best…Arnold really did her homework in “Ties” researching interview techniques, evidence procedures, medical terminology, and legal issues that usually are painfully absent in most police procedural novels. Not in “Ties”, seriously the most technically correct police procedural novel I have ever read. The fictional side was even more entertaining than the facts!…”

4) What an amazing praise from an ex-cop! Congratulations! So with all this reviewing and researching, do you plot a lot or do you let your story surprise you?

A mix of both, I suppose.  While I am primarily a “panster”, I have an idea where I want things to go.  But, sometimes, or should I say a lot of times, my characters take me down another path.  These “detours” are a real highlight of the writing journey.

5) Agreed – there’s that wonderful moment as a writer when your characters simply bring you someplace that maybe fifteen minutes before was never even a thought in your mind. It’s that “detour” you speak of that makes it so worthwhile. So tell us, what are your current projects?

I’m taking a stab at writing a political thriller.  And, I’m getting ready to start a first round of edits for another thriller novel for release in the late fall—ASSASSINATION OF A DIGNITARY.

6) You’re a writing dynamo and in a relatively short time you published a great series of work. So many people say they want to write a novel, but they just don’t get around to it. How do you do it?

What an amazing compliment: a dynamo 🙂  I guess it just comes from such a passion for writing.  Writing, to me, is something that is a necessary part of my daily life.  I’ve made sacrifices for it, and continue to, but when you strongly believe in something, you don’t have much choice.  I just hope that my readers fall in love with my characters as much as I have.

I’ve written 8 novels, and 2 short stories.  4 of these novels are in The Madison Knight Series, 2 are thrillers, 1 is suspense, and 1 a romantic suspense.  Book blurbs on all of them are available on my website here:  http://carolynarnold.net

7) Ok, lastly, tell us something that folks might not know about you.

Hmm, tough question as I consider myself rather open….This summer, I took another attempt at gardening, and so far, not only are the plants still alive (a month later), they are prospering.  My favorite is my banana tree, which is growing at an insane rate.

Carolyn, thank you so much for your time. If you’d like to connect with Carolyn and her novels online, please see the links below.

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