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.

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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.

 

Point of View

I am Writing

When you craft a scene in a character’s POV, every line in that scene has to feel as though it is being processed, chewed, and spit out by that character. Everything that happens in that scene is witnessed, experienced, felt, and reacted to by that character. And so, even the narrative must have “voice.”

CS Lakin

When I first read the above, I had to sit with it for a minute and process it. I loved the way it was written and the knowledge behind it is worth really considering.

I found this in an article about voice, but it is equally important when thinking about which POV to choose for a book and to make sure that you have not head hopped during one scene.

POV, point of view, is one of the most important decisions an author will make about a novel. First person, third person limited, and third person omniscient are the most frequently used POV’s. There are costs and benefits to each one of them.

First person, allows the reader to get to know your character and bond with them. It can make the story come to life in a real way. First person POV typically, has one POV character and would be confusing if you changed characters. First person, can be difficult to write because you know what is going on in everyone else’s head and sometimes it slips in. You have to catch those slips in editing and find a way to give the same information from the first person perspective.

Third person limited can be as intimate as first person if you stick with one or two character throughout the novel. Third person can be difficult because you run the risk of head hopping during a scene because you do write from other characters points of view. Third person limited POV is the most popular choice for authors.

Third person omniscient allows you to write from every character’s POV. The reader can see inside anyone’s head. It gives you the option of having as many POV characters as you would like. You write from a god like perspective. You can tell the reader what is going on in anyone’s head at any time. This can be confusing to readers unless each character has a distinct voice. True Omniscient POV is not used very often.

As hard as we try as writers, some lines or whole paragraphs slip into our scenes that are from the wrong POV. That’s why I love the quote above. It reminds us that every aspect of the story must be told from the one POV.

Doing so increases the bond between character and reader and reduces the possibility of confusion.

Why Write?

I am Writing

Ever writer has a different reason for writing, and each work in progress (WIP) has its own unique spin on the ultimate reason for writing. If you don’t know why you write, you will lose your motivation and your WIP will languish in a closet and never be finished. One reason is not better than another, what matters is that it’s big enough. It must be unwavering in its determination and passion.

There are a million reasons to write. It’s fun and interesting, and you’re always learning. You get to be in control of what happens and write the story you have always wanted to read. It’s an provides a legitimate reason to travel to exotic places. It pays the bills. It brings notoriety and possibly fame. You want to entertain others or provide them with experiences they may never be able to enjoy otherwise. It may be a combination of all of a few of these or something entirely different.

Each individual WIP takes your ultimate driving motivation to write and slices it like a piece of pie. The more you write the close you get to having served the whole pie.

Whatever it is, staying focused on the one piece while you are creating your WIP is essential to writing tight prose through the first draft and killing your darlings during editing. It acts as your guide, when your characters want to go off on a tangent or when you think that providing a bunch of backstory is “absolutely necessary” despite not being able to work it in and maintain forward momentum in the plotline.

I write ultimately for hope, to never give up no matter how tough things get. It’s the theme of my life you could say because it bleeds out, not just in my writing, but in every aspect of my life: my day job, parenting, hobbies, and friendships. That’s how I know it’s the correct theme and motivation for my writing. It couldn’t be anything else. It’s big enough.

Each of my novels has an overall theme of hope and then I slice that into a specific challenge for the protagonist to address such as trust, which creates their character arc along with minor characters arcs or personalities to flesh out the slice and force the protagonist to change either negatively or positively. The antagonist can have the opposing arc to the protagonist or just be the central force pushing against the protagonist. The plot drives it all forward creating internal and external conflict.

To find your why, look over your life and see if there is an overriding theme that drives you in your other roles it may be just the thing your WIP needs to get to the last page.

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.

 

do you want your readers to change?

stages of change 2

As writers, we want our books to influence others or at least resonate on a deep level. Over this last week, I’ve ran into the above question twice. Both times, it has really caused me to pause and think about it. Initially, I thought I don’t want my readers to change, but within a second I knew that was not true. I do what readers to change. I want them to change their perspective on the world. The perspective and the particular aspect of the world depend upon the book’s theme.

People change their behavior and thoughts when their core beliefs shift. Influencing someone’s core beliefs is hard work. In order for a story to change a person, they must become emotionally connected to the characters in the book. They must feel the pain, fear, and joy along with your characters. They must go through the cycle of change vicariously.

Changing our beliefs is painful and no one really wants to do it, our characters are the same. The first stage of change is precontemplation. At this point, the character/person doesn’t realize there is a problem or isn’t interested in changing it. Contemplation is the stage where the character sees there is a problem and is thinking about changing it. Finally, the character will take action to change, third stage(midpoint of your novel), and seek out solutions to the problem. This often leads to a relapse (usually at the third plot point) where the character falls back into old ways of thinking or acting before getting back on the horse and facing the problem full on in your climax.

Asking yourself how do I want my reader to change while you are writing can help you map your character’s arc, focus on the goal of each scene, and decide which conflict will ramp up the tension in the most effective and influential way.

 

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

 

 

Book Cover Design

Why do people pick up the books they do? Have you been into a bookstore recently and looked at the shelves and shelves of new books? Or searched on Amazon for your next rainy day adventure?

There are so many options out there for readers, which is fantastic and exactly how it should be, but as an writer it is daunting. Because I don’t want you to pick up any old book, I want you to pick up and buy my book. The one I’ve poured my heart and soul into for at least a year.

I want your next favorite and most memorable character to be one of mine, but that won’t happen if you don’t buy my book, so how do I get you to pick up my book and decide it is the one for you.

When I walk the isles of a bookstore or peruse the new titles tables, I pay attention to what makes me pick up a book. Is it the title, the author’s name, the cover design, or the size? All of these influence whether or not that book ends up in my hand. The cover design catches my eye first, the title comes second, the size of the book is a small factor (An 800 page book is a major commitment for a single parent who works full time). I notice the author’s name, but I’m much to forward thinking to worry about gender of the writer regardless of genre. If I have to choose between two books, the author can be the deciding factor if I have read and loved one of them before.

So cover design, that’s the big one. It’s the one that stops the reader in their tracks. A good cover grips you, pulls you in, and doesn’t let go. Even if the reader sets the book down, the image has buried its hooks in their mind stalking them up and down every other isle.

The genre of the book influences the cover design more than any other outside force. You want the cover to stand out from the ones on the shelves, but not so far out that it calls the genre into question. I’m going to use fantasy covers as an example because that’s what I read mostly. Fantasy covers depict the protagonist in either an epic battle or a solitary pose exuding power and authority with a little (or a lot) of sexual appeal thrown in.

Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin is a good example of this. His covers are simple with one object that fits within the fantasy genre.

game of thrones

Most fantasy books are more like the older covers of Terry Brooks’ Shannara series

sword of shannara 1

But Terry Brooks has caught on and remade his covers to be different from the run of the mill fantasy cover art.

sword of shnnara 2

The age group of your readers also has a huge impact on your cover design. You cannot have a scantily clad woman on the front of a middle grade novel. There is a reason there is a children’s section in the bookstore.

When designing your book cover with an artist or on your own keep your genre and readers in mind, but also be true to your story and characters.

 

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