Tuesday, December 11, 2012

It Is Time To Enter.... The Downs

The second book in the Sevens series called The Downs is now available on Amazon (first book in the series is called The Wild Wood).

A little bit about The Downs:

In The Wild Wood, Cecily Daye discovered who she was, embraced the trails she was born to endure, and emerged with a power unrivaled in the world.  The moment Cecily came into her true power, the world changed.  Every living being felt the surge, the awakening of a power that could destroy all life.  Both friends and enemies look upon her with suspicion and wonder if she will use her power for justice instead of treachery.  As beings—men, mystics, and monsters—scramble for more power to offset the limitless will of Cecily Daye, one force—the Source—understands the mistake of her birth, the mistake that can be undone.  While her friends and boyfriend battle the horrors awakened by her existence, Cecily stands alone facing the Source.  But Cecily's greatest foe is the question she holds deep within her heart: should she even be allowed to exist?  Enter The Downs.

And if you haven't yet read The Wild Wood, here is a little more information.

In the town of Dunlowe, being different can be deadly.  No one knows this better than the seven girls born on the exact same day, at the exact same time.  From birth, they've been feared, judged, and controlled.  And yet, still loved by their families.  Still hoping for a future.  Still believing that acceptance would one day come.  As their seventeenth birthday approaches, events occur that leave Cecily Daye and the other girls grasping with the possibility that their oppressors might have been right about them all along.  Maybe they are as evil as the town has believed.  But without an answer, they must make a choice when the town turns on them: to die or to run to the one place no person would follow—they must enter The Wild Wood.

From Kirkus Reviews

"A suspenseful story about friends, family and sacrifice... The town of Dunlowe, shivering under Pastor Rowe's rule, is sufficiently enigmatic—not to mention terrifying—to create suspense and deliver thrills."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Shock of the Fall

Lately, fictional worlds have commanded the lion’s share of my real world (with the exceptions of work and pup time, of course).  With a first book out and second to be released at the end of November, every hour I can find I am molding the series, finessing the second book, delving into the third book, and dreaming futures for my characters that will bring us through to the finale (whenever I reach it).  First books are like first love.  We have no expectations, no experience, and we fall head over heels into the adventure.  Second books are different.  We are seasoned by life, as are our characters.  Second books can break our hearts... and do.  Second books, in the ramping up of the overall series’ arc, teach our characters that the fall is much farther than they ever knew and the landing so much harder.  

Presiding over story worlds can be a rush—the power in our hands.  But when we love our characters (yes, even the bad guys), the responsibility we feel to our story children mutes the power grab and we are left feeling like tormenters as their worlds fall into chaos.  We watch them see the world and become scarred by it as we all have the chance to do in real life.  And this is what I have been thinking about lately.  Life.  Real life.  And how incredibly shocking is the reality of how far we can fall.

Weekend before last, I attended a funeral for a man who made the world sparkle.  His laughter.  His outrageous language and frenetic energy.  Gestures wild and alive.  The most animated face of any person I’ve ever met.  I see him in my mind right now.  Life has been very busy, but I had to go to his funeral.  I wouldn’t have missed it because I loved him, but also because he was the man who always showed up for his family.  He even came to my Master’s graduation even though I didn’t invite anyone other than immediate family (it wasn’t a big deal to me to graduate but having him show up taught me that it did matter and I had accomplished something important).  He was family, the family member who made me feel normal instead of the oddball I’d always felt like... or rather, he celebrated being an oddball enough to make me feel like it was a badge of honor not something to hide.

He lived life as though it were the greatest adventure and his adventures put most fiction to shame.  He was a man who had an affirmative answer always ready for the world.  The last time I saw him was when I stayed at his place on my way to Minnesota to adopt my puppy (a crazy thing to do maybe... look for a rescue dog eight hundred miles away), but he thought it was funny and took me to dinner (even told me my puppy could stay in his very clean house after I picked her up... Aggie and I thought the better of it and I brought her home to learn proper house behavior).  But he wouldn’t have minded a puppy accident and now I really wish we had stayed with him longer or that life didn’t get so darn busy that I didn’t think to take more trips (with pup or without) to see him.  I didn’t know he would be gone so fast.  I didn’t know how far we could fall once the man who made the world shiny vanished from us.

But then we don’t know how far we can and will fall and we don’t want to because even a tremendous fall teaches us more about life.  Gives us more perspective.  Jimmy didn’t know how far he could fall and then he lost his wife.  I can’t imagine what that was like for him, but what I learned from him is that even after you fall, lose more than you ever thought you would, the world is still a thing of beauty.  Laughter is and always can be our soundtrack.  Good exists.  And today is the best day we can do anything about.

And that is what I will tell my characters as their journey continues, great falls impending, because every fall is a chance for us to rise.  I can only hope that when I reach my end in life, I will have the same peace Jimmy did that he had taken care of his family, created an amazing community, and bettered the lives of every person lucky enough to know him, and consequently the world we all live in.

Rest in Peace Jimmy Tilden.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Beauty of Being Awakened

I think it is fair to say that being awakened is probably not on anyone’s top-five list.  We certainly don’t think highly of the sounds of alarm clocks pelting us with shades of awareness we’d rather flee.  And yet, being awakened is an amazing thing, and no, I am not really talking about big love for alarms that herald the start to the daily race to accomplish all that needs doing while attempting to have lives too.  The awakenings I am thinking of are the ones that change our paths, help us to see the next adventure, allow us to see the different layers in all that we thought we knew.  Awakenings of spirit, of dreams, of direction.  

All too often, it is the patterns that drive us.  We do what we’ve always done, afraid to change, to explore new paths that will cause consternation among loved ones, to step beyond our own known worlds.  But even though the steady, known paths seem safe, there live echoes of voices inside us declaring that there is something more for all of us, accomplishments, dreams, connections.  The yearning in us is very real.  For something more.  Something that can only be found by walking into the unknown.

For me, the past five years has been a trek through the unknown.  I’ve fallen into some murky waters and had to learn to swim.  I’ve been pushed and prodded by my dreams, wounded by the slights that come with striking for more, and then reached the peaks.  I’ve seen my book published.  After all that fear and doubt, my book is in the world.  And now when I go to pick my dogs up at my vet, vet technicians rush out to tell me how much they loved my book.  Friends call to say that they gave the book to someone who loved it and passed it on.  I look back over the winding road of the past five years and see that all is as it should have been.  The letdowns forced me to grow, forced me to commit to what I wanted, and to not let go no matter how many hurdles blocked my path.  And as I work toward the release of the second book in my series, I feel right in my direction and willing to work as hard as needed to honor the stories that made a home in me.

For so many years, writing has been front and center in my life and today is no different, but there are other things in life.  Other yearnings to reach for.  Other patterns to break.  Other awakenings.  Change.  I wish I could say I wasn’t afraid of what comes next, but it is unsettling still to wander beyond my barriers.  Even newer patterns have the power to lull us and we must always be willing to look at our lives, what works and what needs work, and to lean into the direction of growth.

Maybe we are all Snow White, yearning to be awakened.  And Prince Charming shows up in many guises: a lyric of a much-loved song; a passage in a powerful book; a new friend who sees the reflection of who we are now, not who we have been; an old friend who never gave up on who we could be; a person who challenges our perceptions about our place in the world, a person who surprises us just by being who they are.  Opportunities are all around us.  To be better.  To do more.  To claim the life we always knew we could live.  To be that person we are in the silent places inside our hearts.  And as much fear as is felt in sharing that vision of self with the world, risking the hurts that could come, I, for one, would rather dare than shrink away.  I want—no, I need—to keep changing and growing and never let old patterns define new horizons.  Stagnation is the true enemy, draining us of the will to dare.  But in what fiction story did the hero ever refuse to dare?  That wouldn’t make such a good story in fiction, so let’s not live it in real life either.

Quote for the Day (a repeat because I love it) from Anais Nin

“There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Contest Winners!

Winners for The Wild Wood iPod Nano contest are Angie and Beth!  Thanks for supporting The Wild Wood and I wish you many hours of enjoyment with your shiny, new toy!

Thanks to everyone else who entered and I'm working very hard on The Downs, coming November 30, 2012.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Last Chance to Win in The Wild Wood iPod Nano Contest

Isn't this pretty?

And it has a twin (a not-at-all evil twin, mind you).

In celebration of the release of The Wild Wood, two 8GB Project Red iPod Nanos are being given away next week.  Hurry to enter before the deadline! For information on how to enter, follow this link to my website.  To purchase The Wild Wood (in print or e-book), follow this link to Amazon.

Good luck everyone!

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Best Thing About Publishing

There have been many ups and downs in my road to publishing, but now that my young adult fantasy, The Wild Wood, is in the world, I have had the opportunity to experience the very best thing about publishing: when people who don’t know you love your story.  My characters and story have compelled friends, acquaintances, and even strangers to reach out to share how they loved their time in The Wild Wood.  That is the best moment a writer can ever dream of—I mean, sure, many people are motivated by fame, fortune, a guest spot on Oprah, but for me the idea that Cecily and the sevens matter in the minds of people beyond me is truly incredible.  And my readers have universally (so far) said that the book was hard to put down once they started it and that they are seriously needing November to get here quickly so that they can find out what happens next for my characters.
This week, smiles have taken over my face and held on tightly.  For all the bumpy waters I have felt over the past few years, I am smooth sailing right now (and deep in the sequel, The Downs).  I now see that when our dreams prove elusive, we must seize and make them our own, creating our success and accepting that our path might look nothing like what we had imagined.  By tearing up all the imaginary roads we thought we'd walk and forging our own path weaving in and out of parts unknown, we make our dreams come true.  And they are more stunning for the growth that took place to get us there.
I hope you will check out The Wild Wood and be part of this amazing journey I am on. The Wild Wood is available in print and ebook.  I wish happiness to all my writing fellow travelers.  We’ll get there, by hook or by crook.

Quote for the Day from Henry David Thoreau

“Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.”

The Wild Wood:
"A suspenseful story about friends, family and sacrifice... The town of Dunlowe, shivering under Pastor Rowe's rule, is sufficiently enigmatic—not to mention terrifying—to create suspense and deliver thrills."  Kirkus Reviews

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Universe Giveth and Taketh Away... My Computer

Last Friday, my big release date, was exciting and fabulous, but still, I was thinking of the future and my second book’s release date (coming very soon), so even though I had resting and rehabilitation to accomplish, I started working on the next draft of The Downs.  Typy, typy, typy, and poof (poof in the form of a grey expanding unpleasantness draining down my computer screen).  Okay, not helpful.  Restart.  Then restart again.  Open files.  Typy, typy, typy.  And BEEP, BEEP, BEEP (no, I wasn’t swearing; the computer actually beeped at me like an unbalanced cabbie).  It wouldn’t stop.  BEEP, BEEP, BEEP.  Okay, force quit.  Restart.  Open files and... you guessed it: BEEP, BEEP, BEEP.
Applecare support phone call later: My new laptop is a very sick creature.  I took my baby computer to my appointment and the nice man (who might have mocked my co-dependence just a tad) said I would have to leave my computer with him and walk out of the store alone.  Alone?  I didn’t understand.  I asked him if he was nice to children (indicating the computer) and he said yes, but he admitted to kicking puppies (he was actually pretty charming and funny for a genius).  I admit it: I almost cried when I left my laptop.  Sniffles... much.
But it didn’t take long to understand that after achieving a lifelong goal of releasing a book into the world, it was time to recoup, not launch manically into the next goal.  Besides, I had company in town and this way I had the chance to see her and do crazy things like take naps and eat plenty (my favorite restaurant has the best grilled artichokes on the planet).
So, what I’ve learned so far in this publishing adventure is to listen when the universe gives you inspiration; accept when the universe takes away your computer (for a limited time only); and enjoy the friends who love you enough to come visit to celebrate your release date.  And basically, serve your purpose, no matter what that is.  All the hard work I have put in is coming around as I read comments of people who don’t know me who are loving their time in The Wild Wood.  The universal comment has been that people couldn’t put it down (pretty nice comment if I do say so myself).
Hope everyone has a great weekend, and treat your computers nicely.  You don’t know when you might suffer from an abrupt parting.  And if you would like to spend some time in The Wild Wood, it is available in print and ebook.

"A suspenseful story about friends, family and sacrifice... The town of Dunlowe, shivering under Pastor Rowe's rule, is sufficiently enigmatic—not to mention terrifying—to create suspense and deliver thrills."  Kirkus Reviews

Quote for the Day from Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”

Friday, June 29, 2012

Enter The Wild Wood

Well, it is here: my release date.  The Wild Wood is now in the world and available in both print and ebook on Amazon.  Please forgive me for my blog’s silence lately.  The publishing journey has been pretty feisty in the past month.  So, rather than gush and use more exclamation points than are appropriate in a civilized society, let me present to you The Wild Wood.

In the town of Dunlowe, being different can be deadly. No one knows this better than the seven girls born on the exact same day, at the exact same time. From birth, they've been feared, judged, and controlled. And yet, still loved by their families. Still hoping for a future. Still believing that acceptance would one day come. 

As their seventeenth birthday approaches, events occur that leave Cecily Daye and the other girls grasping with the possibility that their oppressors might have been right about them all along. Maybe they are as evil as the town has believed. But without an answer, they must make a choice when the town turns on them: to die or to run to the one place no person would follow—they must enter The Wild Wood.

"A suspenseful story about friends, family and sacrifice... The town of Dunlowe, shivering under Pastor Rowe's rule, is sufficiently enigmatic—not to mention terrifying—to create suspense and deliver thrills."  Kirkus Reviews

Thanks to everyone who has supported me during this journey, and I promise to blog more in the near future and catch up on your adventures in publishing.

And check out Kasie West's blog for more about me and The Wild Wood.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Civil Wars

Given the chance to talk about somebody else as the topic of my blog today, the choice came easily.  I stumbled upon some videos on YouTube of my favorite music artists, The Civil Wars, and have been watching and re-watching them for the past couple days.  The pursuit of an artistic life, whether that art is written, played, sung, or sculpted, comes with certain hurdles.  This is true for everyone, even the people who seem to have an easy ride.  Opening up the soul to create art is inherently fraught with conflict, with judgments, with highs and lows that touch on depths whose ripples can define a life.  There is vulnerability in submitting to our art, and even more in sharing what our art produces.  Writers know this.  Singers.  Painters.  We all know what it is and yet we do it anyway.  This makes me think of one of my favorite quotes by Anais Nin: "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."

So, we blossom, in sometimes funny-shaped blooms and endure through unpredictable weather toward our goals.  What moved me so much about the two Civil Wars videos I posted (aside from the amazing music) is the discussion with high school students about the winding path that, after ten or more years in the music industry, led them to each other and to the amazing ride they are now on.  The second video talks about the inspirations for their lyrics.  For me, hearing their journey made me feel better about my own winding journey. I hope wherever you are on the path, you find something inspiring about them too.

The trailer for my YA debut, The Wild Wood, available June 29, 2012.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

This Morning

Today's post is about sharing something about myself, so I am going to share the realization I had this morning.  First though, I know that even when we have an epiphany, it doesn't mean we've achieved inner peace, it is just one piece on a long road toward growth (something I love, as stagnation is my greatest enemy).  I just wanted to add that caveat because too often we look across fences and see what others claim to feel without understanding that they don't necessarily feel that way every single day.  With that said, let me tell you about this morning.

It was a good morning.  I woke before my alarm and used the stolen minutes to read some of a romance novel series that I'm going through like wildfire (stolen reading time is one of my favorite things).  And then I got up, let the dogs out, and fed them (they get so excited to eat that you'd think I'd been starving them for months).  I exercised (a tiny bit) and then got ready for work.  All of this seems pretty mundane, but it was pleasant.  And just before leaving for work, while wearing a pretty dress (I have big love for pretty dresses), I looked at myself in the mirror and realized that I am happy with where I am in my life, who I am, what I am achieving, and wouldn't choose to trade with anyone else.  That's big for me, because I sometimes look over fences at the people who have the things I don't (both on a personal level, as well as a literary one) and want to be where they are.  I always wanted the agent, the book deal, and all the validation that implies.  Self-publishing wasn't the way my dream ever looked.  But this morning's clarity really wasn't about book deals or the lack thereof, it was about me.  Who I am at my core.  It was about acceptance of the pretties and the uglies inside us all.  And it was wonderful.

So, that is my About Me for today.  May everyone have cause to smile on a Tuesday morning in May.

The trailer for my YA debut, The Wild Wood, available June 29, 2012.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Monday: About Writing

Monday's topic is about writing, and I was thinking about this post while I was editing this weekend.  My book is in the finishing stretch (thank goodness since it is coming out June 29, 2012) and as I go through and make minor reader-inspired tweaks, reviewing these words for the billionth time, I am reminded of exactly why this was the book that refused to be put away forever just because it didn't find a traditional publishing home.  Even after all this, two complete rewrites, changes, two years set aside and then revisited, I still love it.  It still moves me.  I still cry at the end, happy tears.  My characters are real to me, and thankfully, to my readers who have been pestering me to do something with this book and write the sequel (or get buried up to my neck until I do, thanks, Tawny).  This story needs to live, and it is for this story that I am crossing the barrier I never thought I would cross.  I never intended to self-publish.  I planned to just keep writing and submitting first books (everything I write is a series, so far anyway) until I found an agent and hopefully got a book deal.  But The Wild Wood forced my hand and now I'm on a terrifyingly wonderful adventure.

So, I guess what this post is about as far as writing is concerned is the beauty of reading your own words and having them draw out of you a response when by rights you should be over them after the years of work and endless edits.  I'm not over The Wild Wood, and I hope readers feel the same way.

The trailer for my YA debut, The Wild Wood, available June 29, 2012.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Friday Make You Smile

A friend just sent this to me and I thought it was perfect for the Friday goal of the Blog Me Maybe blogfest to make you smile.

Have a Happy Friday Everyone, and get out and dance walk!

The trailer for my YA debut, The Wild Wood, available June 29, 2012.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

About Someone Else Thursday

The first "about someone else" post isn't much of a challenge and isn't a first for my blog, but it's been a long time since I posted anything about her.  Her name is Han Suyin and she is the author of my favorite book, The Mountain is Young.  My cousin, who incidentally is the person who sent me the article that inspired me to self-publish, recommended this book to me almost two decades ago.  I've read it dozens of times and every single time, I love it more.  I can only dream that one day I will be able to use words like Han Suyin does as she weaves a tapestry and takes readers away from the world they know into the world of her fictionalized Kathmandu.  The main character, Anne Ford, is a favorite of mine, but I also love the entire cast of fallible but fascinating characters.  The book is out of print, but available used from Amazon and other online book stores.  I highly recommended it, and would love to know who your favorite writer is and why you are moved by their words. 

The trailer for my YA debut, The Wild Wood, available June 29, 2012.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

About You Wednesday

I've been thinking about what I would ask followers of my blog and it wasn't hard to figure out.  Since making the decision to self-publish, I really wonder what others think about doing the same.  I know for everyone the reasons to self-pub or not to self-pub are unique, but I wonder what the catalyst is for the ones who have done/or are doing it and what keeps others from diving in.  So, if you don't mind sharing, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

The book trailer for my upcoming YA fantasy, The Wild Wood

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

About Me Tuesday

So, I've been looking for a way to get motivated to start blogging more consistently and the day I went looking around for said motivation, I wandered onto another favorite delinquent blog (yes, Ms. Lola, I'm looking at you).  And there I discovered the Blog me Maybe Blogfest.  Well, I'm in.

Here's the format (and you don't have to post every day or visit every participating blog, but I am very excited to try).

Mondays: May I tell you something about writing?
This can be anything writing-related. A post on craft. A post on your process. A snippet of your WIP, if you like to share. A book on craft that you want to recommend. Things you struggle with. Things you rock at. ANYTHING at all! 

Tuesdays: May I tell you something about myself?
Pretty self-explanatory :) Share something about yourself that your followers might not know. Or maybe they do. It doesn't matter--this is just so people who read your blog can get to know you a little better. 

Wednesdays: May I ask something about you?
Ask your followers something about themselves. 

Thursdays: May I tell you something about someone else?
Make this post about someone else. A writing friend. A critique partner. A person from history who's fascinating. A character from a book. Anyone you want. :) Have a guest poster. Give an interview. Get creative! Just let the spotlight shine on someone else. 

Fridays: May I share something funny?
Fridays = the starts of weekends! BOOYA. Reason to celebrate and laugh on it's own--plus, who doesn't want to see something amusing after a long week?

So, for today, I'm going to start with something easy, something everyone might not know about me.  

If I could only listen to one song for the rest of my life, this is the one I would choose.

Happy Tuesday Everyone!

Book Trailer for my YA debut The Wild Wood

Monday, April 30, 2012

Of Hitting the Wall

No, I didn’t punch a wall, not that they don’t deserve it (they bump into me all the time after all), but I did hit a wall this weekend, which came as a shock.  I tend to run myself at a pretty intense pace.  Between the day job and my writing, it’s not uncommon to work eighty or more hours a week.  Usually, that goes just fine.  Writing gives me an amazing amount of energy and fuels me to keep pushing.  But lately, I’ve been working on many more facets of the publishing journey because of my upcoming book release.  Last week and a bit the week before, I filmed some video, bought a new video editing program, and dove into the book trailer creation process.  On many levels, it was like a mental version of American Gladiator.  I am not very patient with myself when learning new things, so the amount of pausing to breathe and allow thought to recommence was the lion’s share of the battle.
Video editing brought back so many memories of when I was teaching and acting as school videographer and film club advisor.  I devoted so many hours to editing and worked myself like a dog.  I’ve actually been thinking of pulling out those videos and posting them on Youtube (I’ve even asked my old teacher friends what they thought of that idea, and they all say, go for it).  The kids are all over eighteen, so that’s not an issue anymore and I know they would love to see them.  But what I really remembered this weekend, when I hit the wall and was too exhausted to even edit much, was how exhausting video editing is for me.  It is the place where my OCDish traits go off the deep end.  I don’t sleep well, because my brain is editing, clipping video, deciding titles and fonts, and running through the video over and over as I try to achieve perfection.
I remember my last year of teaching, feeling like I was a husk as soon as I got home.  Please understand, I loved teaching.  I gave every ounce of energy I had to my students, lesson plans, historical reenactments, and the clubs I ran, but when I would get home at the end of the day (which was never at the official end of the contracted day), I was hollow... or I was editing video to show on Fridays.  I wrote then, but only little bits, and never with any dream of finishing anything.  I don’t mean to imply that teachers can’t be writers and have energy for the other things in their lives, I’m only saying that I couldn’t.  And partly, it was because I wasn’t married and didn’t have kids to pull me back and to force me to find balance (something I still struggle with).  I loved my job and am a chronic workaholic (clearly), so I gave all my energy for teaching and kept little in reserve for myself.
And I don’t regret it at all.  I am proud of what I did then and the connections I made with young people, and every time I run into one of them, I am thrilled beyond belief.  I think of them often and wish them wonderful adventures in their own lives.
I’m also thrilled to be in a place where I am living the adventure I always dreamed of.  Publishing has been my goal since I was five, and to be so close, is amazing.  This adventure doesn’t look the way I thought it would, and that is something I have struggled with, but as I make a book trailer my way, and create book covers and edit my book to my satisfaction, I can see the upside of self-publishing.  The degree of control an author has in this model is something to treasure.  And I’m very excited to see what happens next.  
In the end (and maybe the beginning), our goals are about following our own paths, not standing to the side and holding onto the paths that didn’t choose us.  What’s on the other side, I don’t know, but I have to say, I’m delighted to see what happens next and know that the coming peaks and valleys will lead me in the direction I am meant to go.  I hope you’ll be with me when I get there.
Quote for the Day from Babe Ruth
“It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.”

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Wild Wood Has A Book Trailer!

I'm more excited than I can possibly convey to see the pieces come together that are leading toward the publication of my very first young adult novel, The Wild Wood.  I'm honestly fighting the urge to whoop and holler and dance around my office.  Seriously.

Well, without further ado, I present to you the book trailer for The Wild Wood.  I hope you like it!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Yeah, I Get It Now

So, don’t you love those times when you think one way (and you’re not so bendy about it), and then life gives you the opportunity to understand the other position?  Yeah, I hate that... and maybe love it.  No.  Mostly hate.  In watching my friends get agents and book deals, I’ve had this idea that the amount of time it takes between when a book is purchased and published is an insanely unnecessarily huge amount of time.  I mean, really, over a year and in some cases even longer.  Yeah, I might have judged the lofty publishing industry for that.  So, I was dumb.  This process of getting a book ready to publish is insanely time consuming and while I am on my own to do everything (big lie, I have so many wonderful friends who are helping me along the way), I can only imagine the work load when you are publishing many books around the same time.  So, I hereby declare, I was wrong to judge you, Publishing Industry.  Please accept my heartfelt apologies.
So, since I haven’t been blogging much lately, I thought I’d share a little progress report about what has been happening in my self-publishing adventure.

I have a website now (thanks to my brother).  Check it out at julieannenelson.com.  There is some of the normal stuff, bios and book details, but the cool part is a contest I am running during the first month of my book release for The Wild Wood.  Two (Product)(red) iPod nanos etched with “Enter the Wild Wood.”  Details on how to enter are included.
The Wild Wood is going through some final editorial reads from my dear crew of readers (thanks so much!).
The book trailer is coming along (and yes, I’m making that myself... hopefully it turns out better than the paper mache dragon I made in grade school).
I have a Facebook author page, so please check that out here.
I have begun building the document in which I will lay out my book and it has been fun making all the graphics decisions.  I’d never considered how many decisions have to be made, from where you put the chapter numbers to fonts and section breaks.  It really is an adventure and I’m loving it.

There will be much more to follow and once I am through the thick woods I’m in right now, I will be back to blogging more regularly (and checking in on everyone else while I’m at it).
Happy Thursday to everyone!
Quote for the Day from Richard David Bach
“You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it come true.  You may have to work for it, however.”
(This made me teary and it is so true.)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Picking an Author Photo

I would love some help picking an image to use for my author pic on my cover. Please help out and let me know which you like the best. :)

Image #1

Image #2

Image #3

Image #4

There are more options on my Facebook author page if you want to check them out!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Picking a Date

Not so unlike picking the date for a wedding, for a vacation, or any other momentous occasion, picking the date for releasing your first novel is filled with excitement (and well, also some anxiousness). Yesterday, I buckled down and decided that June 29, 2012, will be the release date for my novel, The Wild Wood. This book has been a great love of mine; has been edited, chopped, and rewritten more than anything else I’ve written; and has delightfully connected with my readers (who are a very tough bunch). Upon hearing that I was going to publish The Wild Wood, one of my readers said, “Now do we get the sequel?!” My answer, “Yup.”

That is one of the best parts of deciding to self-publish. We all know the adage that if we don’t get an agent and sell the first book, it is a waste of time to write sequels. But I love sequels and series and the complicated confluence of events that happens when we pull back and look at the rest of the story. Series are wonderful because other than a little reminding, we get to move forward and tell different tales, while including known characters. We have a shared history with our readers of the places we’ve been together. I love it.

I am almost finished with the second book and more than any other book I’ve written, it has surprised me and challenged me. It took me places I hadn’t dreamed it would and made me suffer with my characters when saying, “How come you took me here? I want to go somewhere shinier with lots of unicorns and rainbows.” Yes, no one ever wrote a book that is peaceful and happy on every page. Even Winnie the Pooh had his problems.

So, more excited than nervous, I move toward June 29, 2012, and all the adventure that will bring. I hope you will stay tuned for the journey, including the book trailer that will be arriving probably within a month. And if you are considering self-publishing, I say go for it. After years of querying, getting within a breath of having an agent, seeing others moving forward, seeing the publishing industry falter, seeing the rise in self-publishing opportunities (some who even sell film rights and get awesome traditional publishing deals), working with constant dedication to improving my craft, it’s just time to move forward. I hope you join me.

Quote for the Day from Mark Twain

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

When Authors Respond: A Love Story

Obviously, to any reader or writer, authors play a magical role in delivering words that challenge the limits of imaginations. Authors are our super heroes and we revere with gusto. Okay, so we also occasionally malign them for depriving us of books for much too long, but love and appreciation for their work is at the core of even our consternation. Sometimes, even better than the next book is when they respond to our emails or letters. There is very little as thrilling as the feeling that the world isn’t really that huge, that our heroes aren’t behind an impenetrable veil. I smile when thinking about an author response that led to a back and forth email conversation about German poets and poetry with Maggie Stiefvater (the author of Shiver, one of my favorite books).

I’ve been reading quite a bit of nonfiction lately, delighting in the knowledge about the world I am finding through the written word, supplemented by watching a few television shows dedicated to discussing the world beyond our borders. One of the authors whose work I am reading didn’t have the chance to finish a sentence because of commercial breaks and an awkward segue, and for two weeks I wondered what lay beyond the closed door of an unfinished statement. So, feeling very nervous, I wrote an email to my intellectual hero of the month, a man who speaks more than one language and understands cultural diversity and politics of a country I am interested in learning much more about. I was prepared for the fact that he might be too busy, or that he might think the answer to my question rests in one of his published books. If I’d never heard back, I still would have thought as highly of him, but after just a few hours, his response was in my mailbox and I was doing the happy dance. As a person with a bit too much need for closure, knowing what he would have said if he’d been given the chance was thrilling. And the fact that his answer made me think, even better. The author’s name is Hooman Majd and he is a class act... and a darn fine writer too.

Quote for the Day from Henry David Thoreau

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eye for an instant?”

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cheating Grief... and Other Impossible Things

So, I was okay. Moving forward. Facing the future. Rallying around all the things I’m grateful for in my life. And then, this morning, the wheels fell off the scooter.

Did I really think I could cheat grief by being grateful, busy, and letting my brain be swallowed by all the challenges of self-publishing? If I did, I was really, really daft.

You see, a week ago Monday, I lost my Darby Dog. More than lost, I had to take the living, breathing (with some strain), bright-eyed, smiling dog to the vet, carry him into a special room, and preside over his end. I gave him a special treat with pink frosting from the Three Dog Bakery. I loved him up and then put my head against his head and told him how much I loved every day of the past twelve years we’d spent together. A passel of seconds later, my Darby Dog was gone. Still. Peaceful. Gone.

The rest of the week was an ultra-focused attempt to keep Darby’s soulmate, Lucy, busy so I don’t lose her too. She’s a ten-year-old Ridgeback. Thankfully, I have my puppy monster, Agatha Jayne (who was adopted last year for just this reason), who is so in love with Lucy, she flips up poor Lucy’s ear so she can lick it clean. That will distract from the grieving process for Lucy, no doubt.

I was supposed to lose Darby last March. That’s what everyone thought. My vet recently said that he would have lost a lot of money in Vegas on Darby’s expected lifespan and will to survive. Just before we commenced with the event, I asked my vet if I had done everything possible for Darby, and he gave me a slightly incredulous look. “What you did,” he said, “is the equivalent of a human cancer patient being given a few months and living ten years.” Darby is plucky that way.

And even in the end, he was still bright and happy to be alive. I had been waiting for him to show through not wagging his tail, fluttering his ears, and smiling at me that he was ready, but he never stopped doing those things. His body just became incredibly weak, while his feisty spirit remained in tact. The morning I took him, he was still eating, catching a ball, and sucking up to me for chicken and special treats.

Friends of mine have accused me in the past of not allowing myself to grieve. I don’t like grieving. There are so many people who have lost more. I had an extra year that I hadn’t expected to have. There is always so much to be grateful for. But grief is grief and must be given its due. That due came this morning.

I was going along just fine last night, working through some comments from a beta reader when I hit a wall. I couldn’t figure out how to fix something she thinks would make the book better. I couldn’t even find a place to start, to make an inroad. When she gave me the feedback, she said, it might sound like I’m asking you to do a massive overhaul, but I’m really not. At the time she said it, her warning didn’t really hit me, but last night, looking at the comment, I felt like I was stuck in one of those awful math story problems: If a train is leaving the station traveling in a south-westerly direction and another train... blah, blah, blah. I was trapped and the only way I could think of to fix the problem was to start over (even though she clearly said that wasn’t necessary and loves the book).

This is a bit of a self-publishing lesson as well. People who are fortunate enough to get the traditional publishing deals have a team of people working to make their books ready for market, but when a writer self-publishes, it is all on them and the faith they put in beta readers. That ends up feeling like a truck’s worth of pressure on someone who never really imagined going this alone.

Anyway, this morning, all the frustration stemming from the story problem-esque conundrum caused a much-needed breakdown. I know this isn’t about the book (as much as I’m a bit high-strung about making it the best it can be before I send it out into the world), it isn’t about my irritation with everything in the universe this morning, and it isn’t about the fact that getting ready for work seemed like an overwhelming task. All of this is about me and my Darby Dog and twelve years of having his beautiful eyes watching over me (border collie style) every single day. It’s about grief that won’t be suppressed. And it’s about the fact that for the rest of my life, I will never get to smile at him only to watch his ears flutter, pretend to milk his very soft ears (one of our favorite games), or make him bark at me by telling him he looks like Kermit the Frog (he never saw the resemblance and didn’t take kindly to it).

It’s about loss that, like it or not, I am going to have to face.

Quote for the Day from Rumi

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Literary Haircut — Character Motivation

I’ve made the decision to simple my life up by getting a fairly drastic hair makeover. Yes, there is a countdown clock on the red locks seen at right. And sure, it’s just a hair cut, but after working for a long time to grow out my hair and taking ridiculously good care of it, it seems like a little something more than that. A person has to have a reason to cut really long hair, even if that reason is an impulse—which made me think about character motivation.

In fiction, a character with really long hair can’t cut her hair off without a motivation. In acting, if an actor wants to walk across the room, there has to be a character-based motivation. People don’t just walk across rooms in the middle of conversations without a reason. Maybe a shelf is showing off some dust in the mid-afternoon light. Maybe telepathic communication with the Mother Ship is better from there. Who knows? Or rather, you, the writer, have to know.

Why would your character get a drastic makeover? Did the guy of her dreams—who fawned over her hair—leave her for a less well-maned woman? Did she give birth to triplets and need a break from the work? Does she have back problems from working at a truck stop diner? Is she on the run from the law... or the mob... or political phone calls... or her mother-in-law? Is she being stalked and is trying to make herself more invisible? Is she starting to lose her hair from chemo and just wants to get it over with? Or does she just think she will be sassier with a trendy cut?

This is exactly what I love about fiction: there are so many different stories behind even the most mundane of life’s events. Next weekend, I’ll be posting my new look (I gave myself two weeks before D-Day to change my mind, but no wavering so far). Both in real life and in fiction, I’m ready for a new adventure. Cut the hair. Self-publish my book. Write more. Sounds like a wonderful 2012 to me.

Quote for the Day from a Chinese Prover

“Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.”