On Creative People

Sorry I haven’t written here in almost a year – I find it really hard to think of things to talk about. Even harder is finding things to talk about that I think anyone wants to read. But a recent discussion with hubby got me thinking about how important it is to support creativity in the people you love.

When I was very young, I was very creative – nothing’s changed much since then in that regard. But back then, my creativity wasn’t really encouraged or appreciated. Here follows some specific incidents I remember.

I’ve mentioned before how I wanted to be a writer since I could remember. I had a very active imagination, which my family didn’t recognize, understand, or appreciate. Naturally, it was also not encouraged. In fact, it was actively discouraged. You see, I liked to tell stories. Unfortunately, it was seen as lying. I’d spin a tale about something I’d seen or heard, and my mother would scold me. “Stop lying! All you ever do is lie!” I was probably about six or seven, and I didn’t know how to say I just liked to tell stories.

One time, I had to write a poem for English class. I think I was in 3rd grade. My teacher loved it, and actually entered it in a school-wide contest. It won second place, I think. Do you know what my family thought of it? Not much.

Then I wanted to make things. So I used cardboard and made little houses, or sometimes regular objects. One time, I made a wall telephone like the one we had downstairs, in the kitchen. And I’d pretend to call Grandma. Unfortunately, I was overheard and ridiculed.

Then I wanted to be a fashion designer. So I took up sewing, knitting, and crochet. But none of my hobbies were supported, so I had to make do with fabric, yarn, and needles “inherited” from dead relatives. One time, I knitted a two-piece swimsuit out of maroon wool. (Yes, really.) It was never intended to be worn in water – only for sunbathing. But that didn’t matter. Again, I was ridiculed.

Then I wanted to be a singer, so I’d lock myself in my brothers’ room (they were the only ones with a record player in a semi-private environment) and sing along to Bee Gees, Linda Ronstadt, Eagles, and other artists. Well, of course I was overheard, and again ridiculed. “She thinks she’s Linda Ronstadt,” one of my family members scoffed.

Then I wanted to learn guitar. A relative gave me her acoustic, and I started teaching myself. After a few months, I’d built up the callouses and learned most of the chords. Then one of my older brothers pitched a fit to my mother that he wanted the guitar for himself, since he had aspirations of being in a band. And although he had a job and could buy his own, he wanted that one. I’ll bet you know what my mother did. Yep, she took the guitar from me and gave it to him. Again, my creativity was invalidated. I cried for days afterward, not gonna lie.

Do you know what happened to me after all this? I stopped creating. I stopped dreaming of being a writer, or a fashion designer, or a singer, or a musician. All through my later teens and young adulthood, I hid away anything I wrote and never sang where anyone could hear me. The only thing I did that was out in the open was knitting, and I got very, very good at it.

Flash forward to my fifties, when I met my current husband. He is the first person in my life to completely embrace my creativity. He encourages it, embraces it, and understands it. He’s an enthusiastic cheerleader for anything I want to do, whether it was the jewelry I used to make (before my eyesight got too bad for it), books I write, stories I want to tell, blankets I knit, pictures I paint, or whatever. After I finish my current knitted blanket project, I want to take a break from knitting and do some clay sculpting. His response? “Go for it! Let me know what I can do to help!” What a world of difference in attitude from “Ha ha! You think you’re going to be Michelangelo or something?” Now, finally, I have found what I needed. (And I have so much gratitude and love for this man of mine.)

As a result, my creativity flows like a river, and for the first time in my life, I now feel the weight of wanting to do so much but worried I won’t have enough time to do it all before I die.

Part of me still holds a fair amount of resentment and anger for those wasted thirty years or so. When my creativity could have been encouraged instead of ridiculed. If I’d started writing sooner, who knows where I’d be now. Or if I’d been a singer… or a fashion designer… or any of the other things I’d wanted to be.

So I guess what I really want to say is this: if there is someone in your life who shows sparks of creativity, please encourage them in any way you can. We need more creative people in this world – we have plenty of stockbrokers, lawyers, CEOs and CFOs, and other business/professional types already. But we need more artists, writers, singers, sculptors, and modelers. We need creativity to flourish in our society. We need to feed our souls. And, when we are free to let our minds create, we come up with great ideas. Ideas that make life better for us and other living creatures on the planet.

So. What will you create today?

On Drafts and Revisions

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Yup, that’s me. In the Way Back of 1981, just a couple of months before I graduated from high school. Caught doing some writing, obviously, but I couldn’t tell you what it was I was writing. (Side note: that bookshelf behind me? It had three rows of paperbacks, stacked on top of each other. Yes, I was a voracious reader, and I still am. One of these days I’ll post pics of the spare room we converted to a library.)

I think I’ve mentioned before how I wanted to write since I could remember (it’s even in my bio). My earliest poem that received teacher recognition was when I was 10 years old, called “Silent Creek.” I can still write it from memory here:

The creek is silent
when it runs,
It runs over rocks and then
Down past the willow.

Little children scamper 'bout
picking delicate flowers,
Inside the creek are trout
with their strong swimming powers.

Men and boys go to fish
in the little creek,
The fishies give a swish
and look a little meek.

The creek is silent
when it runs,
It runs over rocks and then
Down past the willow.

So yeah. Not the greatest poem in the history of poetry, but I still love the first stanza.

Over the years, I tried writing novels, off and on. I still have some of that unfinished work. Why did I abandon those projects? Simple, really. I didn’t know how to write.

Back then, I sat at my typewriter (later, the computer) and typed my heart out. And then read over the pages and started again, editing as I wrote. If I didn’t like how a paragraph read, I started the page over again. Yeah, I wasted a lot of paper… until I stumbled on some newfangled erasable paper. (Yes, that was really a thing. The paper had a special coating on it that made the typewriter ink erasable.) That was a game-changer for me, and I wasted a lot less paper. All because I edited while I wrote.

So I’d get about twenty pages or so into a story, go back and re-read it, and try to pick up the story again. But because I’d lost any momentum I’d had, I’d end up dropping it and starting something else.

I probably have about thirty of those abandoned projects packed away.

Then, I got busy with my career in accounting and data analysis, and stopped writing altogether.  I even stopped writing in my journal, which I’d kept continuously since I was a teen.

In 2013, I had to stop working due to multiple chronic illnesses and constant pain, and I struggled to somehow keep my mind busy and feel relevant in a world that doesn’t recognize non-workers as necessary or worthy. After a few months, I started thinking, why not try writing again? After all, it wasn’t like I had anything better to do, right? (A bit of sarcasm there, as I was still trying to figure out how to deal with the constant pain and fatigue.)

Before I started, though, I read a lot of articles about writing. By published authors, in particular. And they all said the same thing: write your first draft like you’re just vomiting words onto the page. Don’t edit as you write. That’s what revisions are for. Just get the ideas down while they’re fresh in your mind and worry about the rest later.

I’m not going to lie, that was a lightbulb moment for me.

By mid-2014, while floating in my pool and letting my mind drift, I had the basic plot of what would become Legacy, Book One of the Keeper of the Sphere series. By July, I’d started the first draft. It was completed around November. And I’ll be honest: that first draft is nothing like the finished book. It was a whopping 125K words, and had a lot of unnecessary details. (In hindsight, no one really needed to know the intricate details of flying Business Class to Ireland, despite the hours of research I did in order to write that scene.)

But that’s the point of a first draft, I think.

Over the next three years, the manuscript went through four revisions, during which most of those unnecessary details were cut. Then I finally swallowed my pride and sent it to an editor who’d been highly recommended by my author friends. Even more revision after that honed it into a much tighter story that ended up below 100K words.

As my first published novel, I’m proud of that work. And yes, I was terrified to actually put it into the world. (Based on reader feedback, though, I’m over the moon at how well it’s been received.)

When it came time to write Chrysalis, Book Two, I also started with what I now call word vomit, but a curious thing happened: the first draft was well under 100K words. So during the first revision, I fleshed out all the details that were missing. Sights, sounds, smells, tastes. Emotions. Reactions. That sort of thing. The type of stuff that really brings a story and its characters to life.

By the time Chrysalis had been revised twice, had two passes by my awesome editor, and a final revision, the word count had ballooned to just a hair shy of 135K words. And so far, reader reaction has been fantastic. (One who shall not be named simply said, “WOW.” How cool is that?)

This month, I started the first draft of Book Three. Once again, I’m not getting bogged down in the details yet. I’m just word-vomiting the story. My goal is to get as much on the page as I can while the scenes play themselves in my mind like a movie. I’ll circle back around and add in the details – the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and emotions – during the revision process.

By the way, I still read a lot of articles by published authors, but now I also read blog posts and tweets by newbie authors too. And I think the big thing is: everyone finds what works for them. And while there is a lot of overlap in methods, some things don’t work for some writers.

Some writers outline extensively and write to that outline. (They’re called plotters.)

Other writers have a general idea of the story arc and just sort of wing it. (They’re called pantsers.)

I’m a combination of both; as a quasi-plotter, I have extensive notes on what I want Book Three to be about, and I have those notes handy while I’m writing. But that’s where the plotting ends, because I basically let my characters fill in and write the story. (I guess that makes me a plantser. Or maybe a plotser. Whatever.)

Sometimes, this can cause a major hiccup to the story arc, as I recently discovered when my main character decided to throw a whole new plot into the mix during chapter one’s dialogue. To resolve this, I thought about it for a couple of days and then figured what the hell, let’s go with it for a couple of chapters and see what happens. Because it was actually pretty good.

Dee rarely steers me wrong when she does stuff like this. (Although there was that time in the draft of Chrysalis when she desperately wanted to have a threesome with Arddhu and Kevin, and that gave me fits for a while until I said, fine; here, have a ball and wrote the scene out in all its lurid details. Then, after Dee was well satisfied, I deleted it. So it was a win-win for both of us.)

I don’t know yet if that little change Dee made in chapter one of Book Three will stay all the way through to the end or to the finished book, but I’m okay either way. Because I’ve learned so much about writing – and I still have so much to learn, having started so late in life – I’m fine with the process.

And I guess because I’m a writer now.

Finally.

 

 

Getting closer!

I’ve finally finished the third revision of Chrysalis, and now Alpha Reader is reviewing it before it gets a second pass by my phenomenal editor. Current word count is 133,394 and page count is 333.

I’m also trying to finalize the blurb, but I totally suck at writing these. I’d love to rewrite the one for Legacy, but that’s for someday. In the meantime, here’s the latest draft:

Once just an accountant, now so much more.

Dee Connor, the latest Keeper of the Sphere, left her ordinary life behind to protect the Sphere, an ancient and mystical artifact that commands immense power.

Power to heal, as well as power to destroy.

Tasked with removing the enemies of Earth and preventing its destruction, Dee must forge an unlikely alliance of unruly deities and defeat formidable enemies. To do this, she enlists the help of the Tuatha de Danann, a race of supernatural beings who were banished from Ireland centuries ago.

In the battle for the soul of the planet, she will face her greatest fears… including betrayal from those she trusted.

The very fate of the Earth will hinge not on her mastery of magick or battle skills, but whether she can survive the transformation necessary to succeed – without destroying herself in the process.

And, here’s the cover:

ebook cover Chrysalis

Isn’t it just gorgeous??? I LOVE my fabulous cover artist!!!

I’ll be pushing for a March release, but that depends on a lot of things: how quickly my Alpha Reader finishes his review, how quickly my editor turns the manuscript, and how quickly I can proofread the final copy.

Unfortunately, I won’t be doing much marketing for this book. So, no swag bags or cool merchandise. But I plan on permanently reducing the ebook price of Legacy when Chrysalis is released, and doing some special pricing promotions.

Lastly, I’ve already drafted an outline for Book Three and will dive right in to a first draft as soon as Chrysalis is released, so watch for updates. With a little luck, I’ll be able to get it completed much faster. I hate to keep you all waiting.

Happy 2020!

It’s official: it’s Chrysalis

I’ve chosen Chrysalis for the title for Book Two of the Keeper of the Sphere series.  Chrysalis, to merepresents a transitional stage of development. Although the book has absolutely nothing to do with cocoons, moths, or butterflies, I thought it was appropriate for reasons that will become apparent later this year, after you’ve read it.  

The manuscript is now in the hands of my awesome editor, and has also been sent to my beta readers. Alpha Reader has asked to read through it again after my second revision. So while I have this “down time” I’ve been working on the back cover blurb. Here is my most recent draft:

Dee Connor is the latest in a long line of ordinary women who leave their ordinary lives behind to protect the Sphere, an ancient and mystical artifact that holds immense power.

She’s been through a lot in her first few months as the Keeper, and she’s got the nightmares and scars to prove it. But she’s also seen wonders and met fascinating characters of Irish myth and legend.

Tasked with preventing the destruction of Earth, Dee must forge an unlikely alliance of unruly deities, defeat formidable enemies, and overcome significant obstacles. To do this, she enlists the help of the Tuatha de Danann, also known as the Fae or the Sídhe, banished from Ireland centuries ago.

She also faces her biggest fears – and the betrayal of those she thought were her friends.

I’m not exactly happy with the blurb yet, but it’s getting there.

I’ve asked my phenomenal cover artist to begin working on the cover, and I’ll share it as soon as I can.

I’m also making notes and beginning work on Book Three. My original plans for Chrysalis changed considerably, and that threw off my plans for Book Three. So again, I’m taking advantage of this “down time” to get some thoughts in order.

I am excited that Chrysalis is so close. I’m sorry I’m so behind schedule – I’d originally planned for a March release – but this year has just been insane. Thank you again for your patience and understanding.

 

At the Rainbow Bridge

He shook himself and looked around in wonder.

Thousands – no, millions – of doggies played, jumped, romped, and ran across the soft grass for as far as his eyes could see. Doggies of every size and color. He’d never seen so many doggies, not even at the awful place he’d been once before.

Before his mom and dad took him home.

Speaking of… where were his mom and dad? Bewildered, he turned to look behind him.

A shimmering path of every color in the rainbow ended in a curtain of thick mist. For just a moment, he thought he heard his mom’s voice calling him, but it was distant and faint. He took one step toward the path but something stopped him, and he couldn’t go any further.

“You can’t go back,” a voice said from behind him.

He turned and came face to face with a handsome, fluffy white doggie about his own size.

“Why not? I need to find my mom.”

The other doggie shook his head. “She’s not here yet. You have to wait for her.”

Oh. Sort of like how he always waited for her to come home from the places she went without him.

“Okay. I’ll just lay here and wait, then.”

The other doggie shook his head again. “That’s not how it works around here. C’mon, I’ll explain it to you.”

He hesitated, looking back at the mist and hoping to see his mom appear.

“Look, new guy. I’ve been here for a while. You’ll know when it’s time to come back here to greet her. Right now isn’t the time.”

Reluctantly, he faced the other doggie again. Instinctively, he trusted him, but wasn’t sure why. Then, as he got a little closer to sniff him, he knew.

He smelled like her.

His mom.

How could that be?

“Why do you smell like her?”

The other doggie smiled. “Because she’s my mom, too.”

“But I’ve never met you. I have two sisters, though.”

“I was before your time.” Now the other doggie’s smile turned wistful. “Oh, there are two more? That’s so good to hear. I’ve been worried about her. But it’s good she’s not alone. She has your sisters to take care of, and to take care of her.”

“And there’s my dad, too. He takes pretty good care of her.”

Now the other doggie grinned. “Yeah, and your dad. He was my dad for a while, too.”

Wait. So now he has a brother, too? While part of him was happy, he still frowned. “Who are you?”

“I’m Buddy, but that wasn’t my name before. That’s what our mom called me. What’s your name?”

“Trip. But just like you, that wasn’t my name before. When my – uh, our – mom and dad took me from the awful place, they called me Dude at first, but that wasn’t my name either.”

Now that he thought about it, he sort of remembered hearing his mom say the name Buddy. More than a few times, actually.

“Well, Trip, it’s nice to meet you. Brother.”

“It’s nice to meet you, too, Buddy. Uh, Brother.”

“So c’mon, I’ll show you around, introduce you. It’s almost time for lunch, but I’ll tell you my story, and you can tell me your story. And then afterward, we’ll play.”

Lunch? Play? He wagged his tail and took a step forward, then turned and looked over his shoulder. But it was just a quick glance.

I’ll be back to wait for you, Mom,” he thought.

Then, side by side, Trip and Buddy walked away from the shimmering path and across the soft grass.

____________________________________________________________________________

In memory of Trip Youngblood 2013 – 2019

Trip gotcha day

Miscellany

While waiting for my Alpha Reader to finish his reading through Book Two of the Keeper of the Sphere series (I wish he’d hurry up!), I’ve done several things:

  • Drafted a general outline of Book Three;
  • Drafted a blurb for Book Two;
  • Created a short list of titles for Book Two; and
  • Researched additional material for Book Three.

As a reader, I’ve sort of run out of urban fantasy novels while waiting for some of my favorite authors (like Anne Bishop) to release their new works. I’ve always had a fascination with historical fiction (NOT historical romance), and so that’s what I’ve been reading for the past month or two. Primarily novels of ancient Rome, Greece, and Egypt lately, since I’ve also exhausted the available selection of ancient Ireland and Britain.

And a funny thing has happened: I’ve got an almost-overwhelming urge to write an alternate history novel. I have so many questions. Such as:

  • What if Rome had never fallen?
  • What if Greece and Egypt were still the superpowers they were in ancient times?
  • What if Paganism was the dominant religion instead of monotheism?
  • What would our world look like if the Library of Alexandria had never been destroyed?
  • Who would’ve explored ancient America if there hadn’t been a desire for conversions and greed?
  • What if the Crusades had never happened?

You see where I’m going with this …

So, I’ve written some thoughts and notes on this, too, and who knows, it may end up being a book someday. I’d have to do a ton of research though, and for now I have at least two more books to finish and release. So at best, it’s just a germ of an idea.

I’ve also done research and written about 12K words on a “super secret project” which I’ll only give one hint about: it’s a completely different take on a well-known person of mythology. And that’s all I’m going to write about it. For now.

And so, even though I’ve been in sort of a holding pattern with Book Two, I haven’t been idle. I’ve been busy.

Stay tuned!

Whew.

Made it through the holiday season. Not that it was stressful, just distracting. As a result, I didn’t make my goal of finishing the first revision of Book Two by the end of 2018. I’m at roughly 78% complete, and at 97.5K words.

So my new goal is to have the first revision completed by the end of January, and in the hands of my Alpha Reader. While he’s reading it, I’ll be working on choosing a title and drafting the book blurb. When he’s done, I’ll take the time necessary to make any changes before sending it to my editor. Once I have the blurb and title fixed, I’ll be able to ask my cover artist to begin work on the cover.

My overall goal is still on target to release Book Two in March. Given that Legacy took about 4 years to release, the timeline on this one is greatly reduced: 7 months from the release of Book One. I’ll try and tighten it up even more for Book Three.

I’ve also been taking notes for several novellas set in the Keeper of the Sphere world: one will dive deeper into Finn’s Cove and the people there. Another will tell Maggie’s story in a contemporaneous account. I think I’d like to tell Siobhan’s story, too, as she was the only true warrior Keeper of them all. And, although the original story arc was for a trilogy, there’s nothing to end the story after Book Three; although I have its storyline drafted, much can still change with it. After all, Book Two changed significantly based on how Book One developed during the revision stages.

I may also share some deleted scenes as short stories here, so watch for those in the coming months – as well as a few that are outside the Keeper world.

Happy New Year!

 

Oops

I keep forgetting to update this site. Sorry!

The release of Legacy: Book One of the Keeper of the Sphere in August was actually quite a bit more successful than I expected. Over 200 downloads in the first few days, when it was free, in fact. And the feedback I’ve received has filled me with joy – I am so grateful to each and every person who’s downloaded it, purchased it, reviewed it, shared it, and talked about it with others. Truly, you’ve made me an extremely happy author.

I’ve also been hard at work on Book Two, which I haven’t thought of a title for just yet. Some days I top 4000 words, while others I only manage 1000. I’ve had to do a fair bit of research for this one, too, although not nearly as much as I did for Legacy. For that one, I had to research County Cork, Ireland; its climate, ecosystem, demographics, landscape … everything. I even had to research how to fly overseas, since I’ve never done it.

In Book Two, Dee gathers her allies. So, I needed to come up with a bunch of deities, and I selected a few lesser-known from many cultures as well as some well-known gods and goddesses.

So far, it’s been a fun book to write, and I’m at almost 70K words right now. I’m pushing to have the first draft completed by the end of this month, first revision done by end of December. With a little luck, maybe a March 2019 release date. But with the holidays coming, that timeline may get pushed. I’ll have a better idea after Yule.

One request I’ve heard loud and clear is to add a pronunciation guide in Book Two. I will definitely include one at the beginning of the book, as there are many more tongue-twisting names of people and places this time.

For those of you wondering: yes, Pete the Troll appears again in Book Two. I’m tickled that so many of you liked him in Legacy. Pete wasn’t in the original versions of the book; he showed up one day somewhere around the fourth revision, and I really liked him so I made sure he stuck around. 🙂

Until next time … happy reading!

And Now I Wait

Well.

My heart is hammering in my chest. I’m breathing shallowly.

Yes, I hit the button, Max. (Pop culture reference from the 80s for us old folk.)

I clicked the “Publish” button on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing this morning for both the print and ebook versions of Legacy. And now, I wait for the files to be accepted and made available on Amazon.

Once they are, I’ll enable the link for the “launch party” and share it. I’ll also place an order for author copies of the print version. I have a list of folks who have requested signed copies, and once I receive my print order I’ll enable the link here on this site for signed copies.

I also registered the copyright for both versions.

So while I wait for the notification from Amazon, I’m assembling the swag bags full of goodies for some lucky peeps. Stay tuned on that.

I’m unbearably nervous. And excited.

And I think I’m going to throw up now.