I read a lot as a writer and I’m often drawn to world news and current events. I remember reading an article about slavery and thinking, “slavery was abolished 150 years ago!” I think a lot of well-intentioned, well-read people are in the dark about what is going on to millions of women and children around the world. We live in our first world bubbles and think that third world issues never cross our borders. It’s egocentric, but I think we do it because life is easier to live everyday if you just don’t know. I’m drawn to the parts of our society that we sweep under the rug and don’t like to think about. The parts that make most people uncomfortable. That’s why I wanted to write about it. Because once you know, you can’t not know.
And so I started out to write a suspense novel about human trafficking. And then the whole thing just kind of took on a life of its own. When it was time for publication, there was a huge discussion about what genre to place the book under. I’m still not sure we found the right one! Paranormal was tossed around. Thriller. Crime drama. It’s all of those I guess. I kind of like that it isn’t pigeonholed!
There was no specific inspiration for the characters in Among the Shrouded. I knew I wanted to write about human trafficking and I wanted characters that were going to be tough enough but vulnerable enough to take us on that journey. Initially, I just had the idea for Mia to be able to see whether people were good or bad. I thought that ability would be an amazing gift for a police officer to have and would be helpful especially in hunting down human traffickers. I also knew that she wasn’t going to be able to see Thomas’ aura since would be the catalyst for their eventual connection. But once she couldn’t see his, I knew that he needed to have something special about him which kept her in the dark. I also knew that I wanted Kate to have some way to overcome what I knew I was going to have to do to her with regard to the trafficking. In the initial manuscript, neither Thomas nor Kate were aware of their abilities and they were much less pronounced. After the manuscript went through the first round of edits, it was suggested that I “beef up” their abilities. I decided to make them aware, just as Mia was, and I believe that led to a better cohesive story line in the end.
Sadly, I don't have any of the vision or intuition Mia possesses. In fact, I don’t have a single superpower. Unless lightning fast sock folding counts. In that case, I’ll make myself a cape to wear on laundry day!
I used to have a little hardbound journal when I was in about second or third grade. I’d write little stories but mostly about stuff going on in my life. In fifth grade I wrote an autobiography. It was short. : )
Since then I’ve written a lot more. You remember school and all the writing? The essays? The forced short stories? I went to college and made a lot of stuff up. I was pretty good at writing around a subject. I became a teacher and wrote lesson plans. And report card comments. Those are fun. How many different ways can you tell someone their kid’s a genius? Or not living up to their potential? Or crazy? I’m most famous for my to-do lists. I have at least six going at all times. I will add something I’ve already done to the list to make myself feel better.
For a long time I tried to write "a novel." I have lots of half-finished manuscripts scattered on hard drives throughout my house, but it wasn't until The Clay Lion that I was finally able to complete an entire full-length manuscript.
These days I spend a lot of time answering interview questions, writing marketing blurbs, and occasionally, when I have the time, I work on writing another actual manuscript. ;)
Chapter 12 - On Publication
I spent a lot of time researching the publication path I wanted to take and knew without a doubt that at least initially, I wanted my work independently published. I learned pretty quickly that unless you are an “A list” author at a Big 6 house, there isn’t a lot of money in anyone’s budget for marketing. I knew there was a very good chance I was going to be pounding the pavement to establish my brand, regardless of where I ended up and decided to maintain my copyrights, control, and royalties instead of handing them over to an agency. I’ve never regretted my decision for a minute and am proud to say that I’ve found great success in the path I’ve chosen. However, I am always open to negotiation should the right deal come along.
With that being said, I wish I would have known how dynamic the industry is, always changing the rules just when you get the hang of it. I wish I’d been told how much time and effort I would need to spend on marketing outside the hours I spend writing. And I also wish I’d known from the beginning how isolating it was going to be.
So to new authors I say:
Trust your gut. Be true to yourself not only in your writing but in your marketing as well. Surround yourself with great authors who understand what it’s like in the trenches and will help pull you up by your bootstraps. Know that your books won’t be liked by everyone and that’s okay. Just because a few people don’t like meatloaf doesn’t mean others won’t think it’s delicious. Find an editor who isn’t afraid to be brutally honest. And above all else, keep reading and keep writing.
I was recently asked to discuss which books I would save if a fascist regime was burning the world’s libraries.
I’m not a literary fiction girl, so I probably would let a lot of the great works of the western world go up in flames!
But I would save The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman. It’s my absolute favorite children’s picture book. I’d save Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz because it’s the book that made me want to become a legitimate author. I’d keep the complete boxed set of Harry Potter and a couple Dean Koontz. Also, a copy of Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson because you never know when you might need a good cry, even with the evil takeover of a fascist regime.
Chapter 10 - Room For All
50 Shades of Grey author EL James was reported to make around £100k a day at the book's height, and the upcoming film will make her millions. Some are outspoken about the fact that one of the most lucrative and famous book franchise of the moment is one so widely derided for its lack of literary value. But I tend to disagree.
You know, I never, ever snub my nose at other people’s tastes. There is room enough in this world for every type of literature for every type of reader. Reading should bring pleasure. It should make you laugh and cry and feel things that are bigger than yourself. A story doesn’t necessarily need to be refined literature to be enjoyable and satisfying. So do I think the 50 Shades series is the most well-written trilogy on the market? Probably not. (And yes, I read all three.) But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have worth.
Chapter 9 - I Heart Thomas
I’ve been told that my character development is one of my greatest strengths as an author. People have connected with my characters and can’t stop reading because they need to find out what happens to them. I think it’s a good thing that my readers take a vested interest in what happens to my characters. So I guess what I like most about my characters is that people seem to like and relate to them.
My favorite character is Thomas from Among the Shrouded. When I first started writing I didn’t connect with him. I had trouble writing from his point of view and I think it was mainly because he was the first male character I’d attempted to convey. I kept asking men, “what do you think Thomas would think about this?” to which the men would respond, “Nothing, men don’t think!” Thomas eventually found his voice once I got to really know him and he became my absolute favorite. He grew as a character and yet remained true to himself. I love that about him. And he’s cute in my head, so there’s that.
So far, the genre of both of my published works chose me more than I chose them. The Clay Lion ended up being YA simply because of the age of the characters and the way the story needed to be told. Among the Shrouded is probably older YA or perhaps NA because of some of the more adult issues the story addresses. I think I’d like to do more YA, but I also like to tackle real world topics that are sometime considered controversial. I like feeling like I’m leaving my readers a little wise than I found them, both young and old alike.
What I love most about YA is that the young are impressionable. They’re not jaded yet. You can reach them and make them feel important things. And you can make them fall in love with the written word. It’s what I set out to do.
I also love that YA is not just for the young. It’s also for anyone who’s ever been young. And we all have been. We remember all those firsts and how wonderful they were, even if they didn’t feel so wonderful at the time. It’s fun as an adult to go back to those times when life was… simpler. Reading (and writing) YA allows us to do that.
As far as reading goes, although I'm partial to YA, I love all types of literature. I’m a huge Dean Koontz fan. I’ve read every book he’s ever written. And my writing is nothing like his which is hysterical to me since you would think he would be a greater influence! I like historic fiction. I love Barbara Kingsolver because I feel smarter for having read her works. I’ve read the Twilight Saga. And of course, Harry Potter! Loved them all. I don’t think there is any genre I won’t read, but I’m not a big fan of tragedies. Is anyone? The House of Sand and Fog destroyed me. So did The Pilot’s Wife. Please don’t write books with horrible endings. There’s enough of that in real life, don’t you think!?
Some say the publishing industry is in decline across the board and although things like the Kindle are bridging the gap, is there still the same love for the written word, or is it being diluted by the modern obsession with tech and gadgets?
I believe there will always be readers as long as there are stories to be told. Reading provides an escape, allowing people to do things and experience facets of life that are unattainable and unfathomable. This is never going to go away. How we communicate those stories might change and that’s okay. People watch stories, listen to stories, and read stories printed on trees and tablets and phones. Is the publishing industry going to continue to change? Of course. Am I going to have to stop sharing my stories? Never.
Chapter 6 - How I Write
I'm both a planner and a free thinker when it comes to my writing. I usually have an idea about the beginning, middle, and end before getting started. The ending is usually the hardest part and I give the characters a lot of leeway with regard to finishing the story. Among the Shrouded was my most carefully thought out plot because there were so many moving parts. The Clay Lion series went through a lot of revisions because of the time travel element. I would think a plot line was going to work and then would realize it would be impossible and so I’d be back to the drawing board!
As far as technique with regard to mechanics, I have dozens of napkins and old grocery lists full of ideas and plot suggestions and dialogue that comes to me when I’m busy doing life instead of writing at the computer. I’m not afraid to let things sit and brew for a few days. I wait for the right ideas to surface and try not to force things too much.
I take inspiration from emotions and the collective experiences that draw people together. At the end of the day, we are all much more alike than we are different and what we are all really looking for is acceptance. Capturing emotions and stories that resonate with all of us in our unique ways is my passion.
I sit on my living room sofa with my blanket and my cats and I write during the day while the house is quiet and I’m alone. No music. No television. No distractions whatsoever. I can’t write when there are other people in the house. I use that time for marketing instead.
Brooke, the main character in The Clay Lion was loosely based on a family friend who served as the bone marrow donor to her sister and my own daughter. She has a lot of my personality traits (an author can never truly take herself out of her work!) but eventually she grows to become her own person throughout the course of the book.
Most of my characters find their personalities in bits and pieces of people I’ve known throughout my life. They are sometimes the people I wish others could have been in my life.
My characters develop gradually and it usually takes me a while to really get to know them fully. I’ll often go back several times after a book is finished and rework areas that don’t seem right based on the people my characters eventually become.
There’s a lot of me all over my work. My values, my belief systems, who I am as a person. I’ve worked through a lot of my own feelings and issues through my writing. It’s very cathartic.
I develop my characters by writing them. I always have to go back to those beginning chapters and revise because my characters aren’t completely fleshed out at that point, but I find the only way I can really get inside them is to let them tell the story and see the plot emerge through their eyes. I give them a lot of freedom when it comes to taking a story where they want it to go.
Chapter 4 - Time Travel
(SPOILER ALERT – If you have not yet read the book, you may choose NOT to read this post until after you are familiar with the full plot of the story.)
The time travel piece of the book was by far the hardest part to write about. The entire idea for The Clay Lion came from a dream. I woke up having had a particularly vivid dream involving my sister and me traveling through time to fix problems. I do not remember much more of the dream than that, but I immediately wrote down a few ideas about time travel and how I could incorporate it into a story. I began writing the book with only a skeleton idea of how the time travel portion of the story was going to work out. About a third of the way through the original manuscript, I realized that how I envisioned the time travel working would be impossible for Brooke to do in real life. I had planned on her family and everyone around her remembering what had happened to her before her first trip, but as I continued writing, I determined that it would be impossible for them to remember if her timeline was reset to account for the changes she was making. It would have to be reset over the origin of the trip, thereby erasing the memories of everyone but the traveler, in this case, Brooke.
Another issue I encountered with the time travel was whether or not the travelers were gone in the present for the same amount of time they were spending in the past. For example, during her first trip, Brooke traveled into the past for six months. In the original manuscript, Brooke returned to the present having missed six months of her own life because of the trip. Knowing that Brooke would be traveling several times throughout the course of the novel, I knew that this was going to be an impossibility, not only because it would have taken years of her life away, but also because then every traveler would end up with large spans of time within their lives that they would not be present for. This would be a huge problem for many travelers, so it was something that I needed to rectify. I finally decided that in the present day, no time would be lost for the traveler. You leave and return in the same day, effectively missing nothing of your present life.
Both of these issues, along with several others, required a significant amount of editing and revisions as I wrote. There were many days (and nights) that I was not able to write any of the storyline because I was bogged down in the intricacies of the time travel. Strangely, most of my inspiration was given to me in the middle of the night and I was forced awake by bursts of inspiration regarding the time travel that needed my immediate attention. I was never so glad for my overactive subconscious!
In the end, I believe that I was able to work out many of the details regarding the time travel that exists in Brooke and Branson’s world. Having grappled for so many months with the difficulties that it involves, I firmly believe that I will never experience time travel in my own life. I believe it may very well be an impossibility in our world. But if it isn’t, just in case, I’m already making my list of what things I would like to do with my trip.
What would you do with yours? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you!
Chapter 3 - Brooke
Writing a full length novel, cover to cover, was genuinely one of the most wonderful experiences I have ever had. It was a lot like falling in love. There were these characters, that I didn't really know at first, but the more I got to know them, the more I liked them. And the more I liked them, the harder it became to tell their stories. Because stories get messy sometimes. Some days I knew exactly where Brooke and Branson and Charlie were headed. And other days, I had to just given them the day off, because I had no direction for them.
For several months, Brooke’s story because my obsession. She would be my first thought in the morning and she kept me awake at night. I would wake up at 2am, with ideas for where things were headed. And I would have to get up. I did not have a choice. It had to come out. On several occasions, I awoke from sleep with great clarity about issues that I was unable to wrap my head around during the day. My subconscious worked as hard on the novel as my conscious mind did.
For a long time, I did not know how the story was going to end. I had ideas. But none of them felt “right.” It took time to really get inside Brooke to see how she would have things end. Because, I came to realize, it wasn’t about what I wanted to have happen at all. It was always about her.
One of the most surprising experiences I had while writing the book was that I was not always in control of what was happening next for the characters. I had an idea. A road map, But on more than one occasion, I found that I was completely taken by surprise by what was occurring on the computer screen in front of me. I was shocked (and sometimes dismayed) by what my fingers were typing, but I learned to trust where the characters where taking me.
In the end, I believe that I will carry Brooke with me forever. She taught me a lot about myself. I am really glad that I got to know her. I hope you will enjoy getting to know her too.
Chapter 2 - Tick Tock
Yesterday I introduced my book to the world. It was a scary day. The part about putting something you've thrown your entire heart and soul into and then waiting to see how everyone would respond - that was the scary part.
I cried a lot yesterday. Not sad, but happy. Happy because people who have loved me my whole life and people who only knew me for a season jumped into my world for a little while yesterday to let me know they cared about this little accomplishment of mine. In reality, everyone I heard from has done far greater things in their lives. I strung some words (albeit a whole lot of words) together to tell a story, but the reality is, each of you who reached out to me yesterday have done some pretty amazing things with your life too. And I think you are awesome. I didn't want to let another moment go by without reminding you of that.
Today, things are more peaceful. Online at least. But I sold 46 copies of The Clay Lion yesterday (THANK YOU!), and today, a bunch of you are maybe, possibly, going to be reading it. And that is terrifying. And so I am not peaceful at all! I keep thinking about you, out there, wherever you are, reading about Brooke and Branson and I am wondering if you've fallen in love with them the way I did. I hope you have.
So here I am. Waiting. Waiting to hear what you think. Waiting for you to tell me that I should write another. Or that I should hang up my computer and consider needlepoint. The waiting is always the hardest part.
Tick tock. Happy reading : )
Chapter 1 - A Beginning
Today I became a published author.
(Breathe in, breathe out.)
I have always considered myself a writer. I love to write. As I child I preferred writing to reading which seemed backwards to me. I kept journals growing up, filled with my secrets and hopes and dreams. I wrote stories and poems. Writing was always an outlet. When something was wrong or if I needed to get my point across or express my feelings to someone, I found that writing things down always helped. It continues to be my go-to therapy, even to this day.
Somewhere along the way though, I stopped writing for enjoyment. There was so much writing involved in school with term papers and essays that it started to become drudgery. And so I stopped writing for many years.
Then one day, I heard about this thing called 'blogging' and everyone was doing it. It required writing and deep inside of me a little sleeping monster awoke. I started writing about my family and my thoughts on day to day life, and I threw it out there, into the universe for the world to read. Sometimes I would write about current events or politics. I loved my little blog. And along the way some other people did too. People began commenting that I should write a book. Over and over. I kept hearing it.
What they didn't know was that I had already tried. I started. I stopped. I restarted. I deleted. Over the years, I had tried repeatedly to get something going in the way of a novel. Nothing ever materialized. It was okay though, because I already had a full-time job. I was a mom.
The next thing I knew, my baby headed off to kindergarten. And suddenly, I could not longer claim that I was a full-time mom anymore.
It was time to do something.
So I did the one thing I've always wanted to do.
I wrote a book.
I hope you like it. It's not really my story. It's Brooke's story. And I think it was one that was worth telling. And I hope you think it is one that is worth reading.
Thanks for stopping in...
This is were you get to read about what's going on inside my head. I apologize in advance - the place is a wreck.