Book Release August 31st

book cover

I’m so very excited. After four and a half years of work, my book, Never Let Me Go: a memoir, is being published. You will be able to order a paperback or ebook on Amazon on August 31, 2016!

Here is an overview:

Nikki’s story is terrifying and heart wrenching, but most of all it’s full of hope.  Readers will move between Nikki’s life on the streets and her life in the courtroom representing the state in a trial to terminate the parental rights of a mother stuck in a cyclone of drug use, violence, and life on the street so similar to her own.

Nikki’s trials began at the age of thirteen when she decided drinking alcohol, sloughing school and having sex were her new path in life. She attempted suicide and began running away from home soon after. By fourteen, she had created a new identity within an alternate reality full of vampires, werewolves, elves and magic. She joined a vampire coven running the streets in the heart of Salt Lake City, Utah.

She was raped shortly after her fourteenth birthday by a rival coven member and in order to gain a sense of security and protection Nikki began a relationship with a man who was ten years her senior. He became controlling, intimidating and violent.

She latched on to hippy boy who freed her from the violent relationship by stealing a car and fleeing to California. They hitchhiked up the western coast selling drugs, using acid, and following the Grateful Dead. Sometime after her 15th birthday, she returned to Utah only to run again within two weeks taking her older brother along. She continued using, selling, and believing she was destined to change the world in some remarkable way.

Shortly after her seventeenth birthday, she realized she was pregnant. The tiny fingers and blue eyes of her son brought her back to reality and propelled her on the journey to becoming an assistant attorney general for the state of Utah, author, and ultrarunner.

To My Writing Followers

self pub

This is an exceptional resource for self-publishing authors. The internet is overloaded with information about self-publishing. As a first time author, it’s difficult to know where to turn to figure out this once “secretive” business of publishing. Joel and Betty’s book, The Self Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide, is exactly what its title proclaims it to be. You will find hundreds of options to assist you from concept all the way to self-published book. The resources are listed as you would need them in the creation process, beginning with developing and editing your manuscript and concluding with promotion of your finished novel. Each resource includes a brief description of the types of manuscripts they have experience with or their area of expertise, thus making it easier to find what you are looking for as an author.

Creative Head Space

I am Writing

Many writers are able to schedule time to write at the same time each day of the week. Having a set time prepares your mind to be creative and to get into the mood.

Other’s create a space in their home or office where the magic happens. Their brain kicks into creative mode when they sit down.

Still other’s listen to a particular type of music and warm their fingers around a mug of coffee or tea, to stir the muse to life.

Is all of this necessary to get into that creative head space? No, but routines such as these can be helpful setting the stage. All these routines tell our body and mind, “Ok, it is time to focus on this creative thing we do.”

Even with all these preparations and cues to set us up to be creative, at times we sit there staring at the blank page with a dismally empty mind. Then what? Should you get up and walk away or sit there waiting patiently for something to come to you? I walk away. If the words won’t come and the movie isn’t playing on the screen of my mind, I find something else to do for a while.

There are three things I do that are helpful to me at times like this, first, I can go for a run. Running wakes me up and gets me to focus. My mind is free to wander and let go of any stressors that may be clogging the creative drain. The second thing that I find helpful is listening to podcasts on the writing craft. This spurs new ideas and new perspectives on old ideas. The third thing is similar to the second, I read books on the craft or blogs.

I never just sit there trying to come up with something because all I manage to do is become frustrated and produce total crap that will be deleted the next time I look over my work in progress. I always have more than one project going at a time, so if I’m just not in that creative zone needed to produce new scenes, then I turn to editing, researching or outlining.

 

Cover Creations

digital media

Wow! I have a new level respect for cover designers. Seriously, I have been trying to learn to use Adobe Photoshop to create covers for my books and it is not as easy as I thought it would be to pick up. I understand the ideas behind it, but trying to remember where everything is, what it does, and learn new tricks is hard.

I have to say I have developed a new perspective on pictures and seeing the world in general. I see it in layers! To create a cover, or manipulate a picture you layer pictures on top of one another. When I went for my run this morning, the scenery around me went through my mind as possibly backgrounds, foregrounds and in pieces with other central objects as the focus.

I’m excited to be learning Photoshop, but it is a time suck right now. Eventually, I will be faster and be able to modify pictures and create covers more quickly (I hope). I have searched the local high schools for a community education class on Photoshop, but all they have is digital photography, which would probably help, but it’s not what I’m looking for.

Jazz, my 17 year old, took Digital photograph last year. When he saw me struggling with Photoshop, he clicked a bunch of things and made it do, in a few minutes, what I had been trying to get it to do for an hour. He is sweet and willing to help me, but he has his life too and can’t spend hours teaching his lame mom how to use a computer program.

I’ll continue my search for a class because I learn well in that type of environment especially if I doing it while they are. Until then, I will watch Youtube videos on Photoshop on my phone and mess with it on my computer at the same time.

I’ve gone through a few of the Youtuber’s who have created Photoshop video’s for beginners and here are the ones I recommend for anyone who knows absolutely nothing about Photoshop (like me). Learning is enhanced if you can watch and do it at the same time.

This is Kingtuts Pro https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZlXagXwcn4&app=desktop

This is Andrei Oprinca https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL236FDF187D1CEB85

There is Baka Arts for more advanced things. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjKIPQOlTASJrIWQ9H-i5mA

To be a successful independent author, you have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone and learn new things, and face truths about yourself that you wish you could hide.

 

Connection is Essential

digital media

We all seek a connection with others. Without it we stagnate and go through life performing the same actions without meaning. Connection is what makes everything we do worth doing. The digital age is here and it has changed the way people connect to one another.

In some ways, this has been positive, and in some ways, this change has been negative. We start relationships, friendships and intimate relationships, through the internet more often than we do by face-to-face contact. My 13-year-old son has more on line friends than he does friends at school.

The negative side of this, is that he lacks some of the basic skills of interacting with people in person. You can tell he is uncomfortable in a group of people. He has a hard time talking on the telephone because he is use to bite size pieces of information through texting. Despite my efforts to get him to interact with others more frequently, the problem persists because he is resistant to stepping outside of his comfort zone.

The positive side of this digital communication is that we can reach just about anyone around the world. Anyone can find and build connections with their tribe of people because they are just a click away. If you live in a small town and no one there quiet understands you, you can still find others who do. Digital communication makes it easier for people to be authentic because the fear of rejection is buffered by your computer screen.

Nothing can replace real face-to-face interaction and connection with others. The more you can be out there connecting with people on an individual level the easier it is to market and sell your books. But you also have to be able to engage with others on a more personal level using digital media as well because that is where your audience is.

If you create an individual connection with your readers, promotion and marketing become easier. You don’t have to be as aggressive. Your readers want to know more about you because of the connection. They care about what you have to say because you care about them.

 

Failure is an event not a personality trait

failure1

We have to be willing to risk failure to truly live and give back to the world. If there was no risk of failure involved, then there was no challenge to begin with.

Everything I do, I do with all the fervor and passion I can muster. I give it all that I have, yes sometimes that means it comes out all wrong especially when I am first learning to do something. In fact, the worse it comes out, the better because then I’m able to see how much I improve along the way. Of course, I don’t think this at the time. Usually I tell myself how I will never learn it, there is too much to know, I don’t have time to learn it all. Eventually, I stop freaking out and apply myself.

“If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly” G.K. Chesterton.

What does this mean? Why would we want to do something badly? we don’t really want to do things badly that’s not what Chesterton was trying to convey. It’s more like what I was saying above. If we do something badly, but we have put in our best effort, we are going to learn and improve. Failure is an excellent teacher.

When we fail at something, we beat ourselves up for hours and sometimes days. We make it into some huge self-defining moment and not in a good way.

Failure should never be used in reference to a person or a piece of art in any of its many forms. A failure is an event in a specific moment in time. What may be seen as a failure now could be a huge success in two weeks.

If we write a novel and it never sells to anyone but our parents, we just have to keep writing. We have to work hard to get better and produce better stories. Stories that touch the heart of readers. Not everyone is going to like what we produce, and that’s fine because we don’t write for everyone. We write for those who share our passion.

If you write trying to please everyone, you will fail because you are not going to say anything worth saying. You will shy away from anything that may offend the left side of society or the right. Writing isn’t about walking down the middle. It’s about jumping over the edge to reach the rest of the outcasts, your tribe.

cliff jumping

 

 

Tri-Writing

A triathlon is composed of three parts: the swim, the bike, and the run. As a triathlete, you have to train in all three of these areas to prepare for the goal, a specific race. Most people have their strong areas and their weaker ones.

Writing can be broken down into three parts as well: the first draft, the editing, and the publishing. As a writer, you have to learn about each of these areas to prepare your novel. A novel is similar to a specific race. It is the goal of all your prior work and training.

The swim is like the first draft. Most of what you do stays below the surface, your body rotation, kicking, and most of your arm stroke. In writing, most of the work a writer puts into the first draft remains unseen by others. In fact, you probably want your first draft to remain unseen by others. Research, backstory, character profiles, it all remains below the surface of the novel. In swimming, technique is essential. Understanding structure is critical in completing a first draft. It’s your road map to the finish.

The bike is like editing and revising process. The bike is the longest portion of the triathlon. Revising and editing take a long time. You have to let your manuscript rest for at least a few weeks before editing and sometimes for months.  Riding a bike for hours can cause various body parts to become numb and editing can cause mind numbing. Riding the bike and editing are both a pain in the butt. The only way to get through either, the bike section or editing, well is to spend a lot of time in the saddle.

The run is like the publishing process. In a triathlon, you make or break it on the run. It’s the final stretch before the finish line. You can’t give up and just relax, you have to continue to push forward even though you are tired and your mind is screaming to stop. Once you get to the publishing stage of writing, you want to just hand your manuscript over to others to finish it: formatting, cover design, and distribution. But you can’t you have to remain invested and oversee these aspects too and push through by promoting your novel.

For both of these life-changing events, you must be constantly training, learning, and improving. It takes months and sometimes years to reach your goal whether it is a specific race like the Ironman or seeing your novel in print. Dream big. Fight for your dreams. Never give up.

Three keys to keep the creative flowing

keys

There are three keys to keep the creativity flowing, the boys in the basement active, and the muse at the quill. First is to read, read, and read. Second is to learn as much as you can. Third is to write even when it sucks.

Reading in the genre that you write in is important. You learn new tricks of the genre. You keep up on what is trending. You understand the themes and structure of the genre. It is also important to read outside of your writing genre. By reading outside your genre it flexes your creative muscle. New ideas pop into your mind because it combines with the ideas you already have going. It adds a special twist in your novel. I’m not suggesting you combine genres, but you could. What I’m saying is that different genres do certain things better than others and you can learn to be better by reading outside the lines.

Continue to learn about structure, characters, dialogue, and every other area of writing. Strive to improve over your career as a writer. I have found that I need to keep a notebook near at hand when reading about the ins and outs of writing. Ideas for new stories and current ones spring into my mind as I discover new ways to look at things whether it is scenes or sentences.

Write as often as you can. For some this is every day. For others it is every other day. Whatever it is for you, keep doing it and do it regularly. It might be total crap that you are writing, if it’s a first draft it is total crap, but keep doing it. You will get better. However, if you stop you will not get better. Quitting is the end of the line. The chance of success drops to zero. Write all kinds of things. Don’t box yourself into one type of story. Write poetry, short story, novels, non-fiction, fiction, and in any genre that calls to you. I find it easier to have two projects going at the same time, that way, if I get sick of one I can still be productive on the other.

The balance between the three keys ebbs and flows, depending on where you are in your journey. Stagnation and loss of creativity is a sign that you have misplaced one of your keys.

Two weeks as a writer

I am Writing

“How did you find being a full time writer?” Jeff asked.

“I enjoyed it, but the one thing I would do differently is get out a little more with friends here and there.”

“Does that help with creativity?” he asked.

“Sanity.” I smiled. “I only had two weeks so I felt a bit of pressure to write as much as I could because I knew it was going to come to an end and then I would be back to struggling to fit it all in. If it was full time, I could relax a bit more.” As I said this I realized, yes it does help my creativity.

My main focus over the last two weeks was my fantasy novel, Syrain’s Marrow. I am 45,000 words into it now. I also spent some time working on the outline to my serial fiction, A Vigil for Justice, and listening to my memoir, Fighting for a Chance to Dream.

I have to admit, I didn’t spend as much time on the serial fiction or the memoir as I had planned. Once I got into the flow of writing the fantasy novel, time slipped away and then I had to tend to mom responsibilities.

Life as a writer takes a lot of self-discipline. It is hard work. I didn’t run into blocks where I didn’t want to write, in fact, I became frustrated when I knew I had to do other things such as come up with blog posts or research twitter articles.

I’m sure that would change if I were writing full time. I would reach the point where I wanted to throw the whole manuscript in the dumpster down the street and set fire to it with a blowtorch.

Being a full time writer is definitely on my to do list, but in the future. Until then I continue to have work to do for the children of Utah by telling their story in the courtroom and helping put their families back together.

As long as I feel my work in child welfare makes a difference to the families involved in the juvenile court system, I will continue to fight for their chance to dream. If I ever reach the point where I see my cases as just another case rather than people with a story worth saving, I will leave child welfare because if your heart’s not in it, you’re not helping anyone.

I didn’t start writing to make money, although that would be nice. I started writing to inspire others. I began with my memoir, which is about overcoming the odds even when they are self-imposed through destructive decisions and an unhealthy worldview. I try not to lose sight of the reason I write, just as I try not to lose site of the reasons I am an attorney. The day that I write solely for money, is the day I will set the quill and ink jar to the side.

Are all stories horror stories?

fear one

The themes of our stories tackle tough issues. More often than not, they deal with conquering fears: Fear of the unknown, fear of others, and fear of ourselves.  The novel may be packaged as a romance, mystery, fantasy, or adventure story, but at its very core it’s about facing the things that make us tremble, sweat, and run the other way.

Few writers start with a theme when they begin a story. Usually, one of the voices in our heads (AKA characters) demands that we tell their story. Their story is, of course, intricately and impossibly entwined with our own.

The theme is discovered along the journey to the climax of the book. It is woven in your character’s arc and the challenges faced throughout the book by any character. The various decisions that are made about each challenge shows a different facet of the theme. The character’s turn it every which way as the plod along trying to figure out what it is, and how to ultimately deal with it.

Someone famous once said, a writer only writes one story. The characters, setting, and plot all change, but the theme is the same. The theme of a story is what resonates with readers. It draws them in because they see themselves in the characters or they see their life in the challenges and decisions made.

I don’t have a degree in literary arts, but my guess is that if you look at a group of books written in any particular generation or era you would find similar themes running through all of them. The challenges and achievements of a culture or particular people.

Books create a safe space. A place where writers can express their darkest rational or irrational fear and readers can feel validation and companionship in their suffering and pain. How often do we come across a line in a book or just a few words and say to ourselves, “Yes, I know that feeling. It is an old friend of mine.”

fear three

I look at my own writing and reading, and I see patterns that match with the patterns and journey of my life. Overcoming adversity, conquering what appears to be overwhelming odds, an indomitable spirit, issues surrounding trust, and discovering who we are as individuals and within the world as a whole.

Within my stories, I am safe to relive the lessons again and again until I finally figure it out.

What are the themes of your life?

fear two

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