When I’m Breathing

‘So…. How many novels have you actually written?’ A work colleague asks.

‘Three of the novellas for my series, they’re pretty short, about 45k words. The novels though, are about 130k words, and I’ve done a couple of them as well. Plus I have two others about the 50k marks, they’re longer ones, and another book series I’m starting that’s at the 30k mark.’ Running the numbers of my current projects through my head tells me it’s still not enough.

He actually sits on those numbers for a moment before responding. ‘Wow. I can’t imagine sitting down to write fifty thousand words. Let alone 140!’

‘Yeah, it’s a lot, I’m pretty pleased with it.’ I’m not. It doesn’t seem like much at all, and there is still so much to do that isn’t about writing.

‘I don’t even know how you find the time to do that.’

And for a moment I don’t know how to respond.

Its unfathomable.

I can’t describe the ease it takes to find my place in a story, stick on the head phones and punch word after word hour after hour, forgetting the total as the story wraps itself around my thoughts. There is the greatest freedom feeling the wind on your face the sway under your feet as your imagination takes you further than the stars, to new worlds where the infinite is tangible. Dipping your hands into the waters of creativity and drinking deep, slacking a thirst you never knew you had.

Stirrings of ideas grow and flourish inside, and they come pouring out, a fountain of unstoppable colours, thoughts, and feelings, and unable to contain the flow you decant it down in words. It takes time but you pull them all together, string them like glass beads on the thinnest of strands until you make something whole. Something beautiful.

Telling someone what you have done, and the frequent congratulations that devolves into uncaring incomprehension. Their inability to see what you have created doesn’t matter so much, you just need to get better with your expression and design.

I think about them all the time, all of the stories, as I’m walking to the shops, talking to my pets, doing the laundry, working in the real world. They are my constant companions, the voices in the dark, they are my bravery, and telling them my deepest desire.

Reminding myself that this is just the beginning and there is still so much to come, as I bite my tongue against the mockery for spending so much time on something that isn’t real, as though vindication of my work’s value must come from someone who’s never read a book.

Those people add flaws to characters I have yet to create, and the first impressions of them only hint at what they will become in spite of those failings. Some I recognise in myself even as I describe completely different people, who hide themselves in the shadow of my stories. In other cases they are as clear as the glass windows of my car as I drive home, working out how they will face this chapter’s challenge.

I’m the antagonist wishing to leave the dinner table so I can plot my protagonist’s demise, knowing as soon as I sit down after a long day’s work I will have to slice open my soul and cut the pieces of emotion out I need to articulate this arc of my character’s journey. To put aside what I feel, from warmth and love to sink into despair and hopelessness of my character’s suffering. Or on darker days, to pull myself from this ravine of desperation and find the light of joy, giving it to the pages of my passion.

As I turn up the music and sink myself into the turmoil of indecision and uncertainty they face, I, as their creator, have no time to dither on such emotions, though they hover about me, as though a plague. I go to bed, tasting their sadness and unspoken words, unstoppable sorrow eating a hole in me my husband has no idea how to stop.

Maybe tomorrow we can watch a movie instead, except where am I supposed to find the time when I get up and continue the façade that I am here and a functioning member of society who’s perfectly normal. And I watch it go by from the inside grieving over the time I am not punching ideas into my phone’s reminder, writing down plot twists during my lunch break, pulling over by the side of the road when traffic is awful and crying while trying to remember an escaping facet of the narrative.

I’ve forgotten I needed to be somewhere this weekend, so I can’t edit that piece. I don’t have the funds to upgrade the website because I need to pay the credit card bill used for advertising. Somewhere in all this I need to find the headspace for myself, to take my estranged spouse out, to play some computer games with him. And then I berate myself that I shouldn’t have spent so much time on that when I forget the passing hours. Or avoid the guilt by stating I’m letting off steam, there has to be a moment I can let go. But if there is then I should use it to read for a while, except I feel disconnected as I critique the writing, or worse, suffer through anxiety I am not as good as this writer. Why am I trying?

The dread that I am as awful as that two star review I received, and I’m burning myself up on a fruitless endeavour, even when it’s the only thing that makes the harshness of life bearable. The stories surround me and some days I don’t know if they are strangling me or holding me together. When the loving words of my husband can’t crack through the shell of self doubt, even as he is screaming them at me, with the quietest of whispers, that one day I will make it.

‘I write a lot in my spare time.’ I answer my work colleague.

My spare time is when I’m breathing.

 

Because I play with the lives of my characters… muhahahaha!

*ahem*

But there is a lot of excitement at hand!

The Hidden Monastery has recently been revamped, and re-released for… FREE!!!

It should be up again in the next few days and I will post all the links as soon as I can.

I posted on Facebook the other day that the book trailer is going really well. I’ve just finished with the composer (bless his patient soul!), the artist is halfway through the images, the voice actors are done and the video guy is looking at blender effects… all *really* exciting!

The Well is making its way through the edits and in the meantime I’m writing the next book in the series (the novella after the Well is already done), and I kind of feel like a script writer for Hanna-Barbera….

Do you ever get that feeling, when you’re writing (if you do) that you are just feeding the characters clues about a mystery? I can’t decide if I’m simply paranoid about being too elusive, or inciting Ruslana into making her own Scooby Gang. If she felt so inclined which she probably doesn’t given how… *has a fisticuff fight with the muse about giving too much away*

Ok, so that was a spoiler, the next book’s main character is a woman called Ruslana. A female detective. Anyone excited yet? I know I am. Even if I am not allowed to give anymore away…. *sulks*

And that isn’t even the end of all the changes!

I have a web designer poking this site into some semblance of order. I was going to give it a go myself but recently gave up, found someone proficient at these sorts of things, and then forgot to blogpost because I’d spent so much time on the admin side I’d forgotten to do it.

Its been very full on for the book lately, and I am really excited about all the upcoming changes and challenges over the next few months.

Then there is… something else in the works. Something unexpected. Something exciting. Something that isn’t the Last Prophecy. But is book related.

Beware the Queen….

For those of you who have read my last two novellas, The Hidden Monastery and the Last Prophecy, there has been a bit of a build up towards the first book, the Well of Youth and what may potentially happen. I left both these novellas on cliff hangers with characters from the first playing prominent roles in the second novella, and know people have questions regarding how these characters will feature in the first book of the Last Prophecy series.

Which brings me to an interesting tidbit of information for you all, in that these characters have a finite life cycle within my writing. I’ve described this before, but will do so again here in more detail, this series was always about the Last Prophecy, and as such, I will be focusing my writing now on others whose lives will change because of the prophecy, whether they know of it or not.

This isn’t meant to give anyone ideas as to the fates of my main characters in the Well, who’s view have been used in the last two books, no, Kat and Nick are busy with the editor, as well as our new hero, (though he’d glare at me for calling him that), Andy. What happens to them… well you’ll just have to wait and see.

The three have been in my dreams and every waking thought for over two years, and now that the Well of Youth is written, getting ready for final stages before publication, its now all out of my hands, and it is sadly time to say goodbye.

I am by no means revealing their fate, more talking about moving on from their specific lives and on to writing other characters, and this makes me rather despondent.

My sister and self-professed number one fan once told me that writing stories is like having children. In this case, I have watched my characters come to life, evolve, and move beyond my reach. Before long they will journey into the unknown of readership, where I hope everyone loves them as much as I do.

I didn’t think I would be this melancholy letting go of the three that started this journey for me, they have been my constant mental companions, but as I sit to try and focus on the next book in the series, with new characters, and commence writing I find it harder and harder to forget them.

Its not an uncommon theory that we give a part of ourselves away when we create great works, ones we are proud of, and ones we hope the world we see as we do, a small sliver of our souls and who we are. The Well has not left me yet, but the time is coming, and while I am happy with it, there are moments of grief that this part of the journey is over, and my feelings a similar to how I felt when the Fellowship left Gandalf in the mines of Moria.

The story must go on, and there is far more to the quest than these three, so much more to tell, but for now, I have come to the end of the beginning.

So you got it, you filtered through all those inspiring ideas and mad illusions, you found the time to put pen to paper (lol, no way, I mean fingers to keyboard), and came up with a great story that you think other people would want to read too.

Congratulations, because that is freakin’ awesome. Doing that part is sometimes the hardest of all.

Now you want to share it, but what do you do? Send your manuscript to get rejected with millions of others and give up? Do the risky, time-consuming self-publishing option? I’ve followed the latter, so it’s hard for me to advocate the former, but I can tell you this: Do the former, the worst that will happen is you’re rejected. Especially if you have a genre. If you can say to me: I wrote a Sci-Fi book! Then send it to a Sci-Fi publisher.

I didn’t.

I wrote a book that’s been called Star-Trek crossed with the Mummy, another called it Indiana Jones meets Victorian Goth. I call it a steam flavoured fantasy with a suspenseful horror twist. What a mouthful.

And I instinctively knew from online research I was going to have a really hard time selling it to a publishing firm that was going to look past my pitch in the first place. So I took the risk and self published.

If you are going to self publish, here is what I have learned so far, and I wanted to share it, and kudos to a cocktail loving friend of mine who wanted to pick my brain on how to go about it, and inspired this month’s blog post.

 

  1. Edit.

This takes the top priority, there is NOTHING more annoying to ANY form of reader than bad editing. Don’t ask me about the hours I spend at the computer or printed works looking for faults, I still miss them, and my editor is human and he misses them too. I’ve seen professional authors with publishers ask readers for editing mistakes before the book is republished. We ALL make mistakes, the more you can find the better. Get an editor, get beta readers, get friends and family to find them… and slaughter every one!!

*cough* I mean fix, fix every one.

When you are ready to publish I recommend Pronoun. They publish to Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iBooks and Googleplay, they are super helpful and have made this much easier for me than I thought it could be.

 

  1. Get a good cover.

I think this is the most critical of your $$ spending. I am reading a fantastic book as part of a review club, and I cannot believe it doesn’t have heaps of reviews. I decided to review it because it had none, and while the blurb put me off a little, and needs an edit, I read the sample on Amazon and was quickly messaging the author screaming “GIVE IT TO ME!!!”

As the author was quick to let me know, he couldn’t believe something so insubstantial was of any importance, but we are fickle human beings, and are quick to judge books on their covers, despite what we say.

 

  1. Social media platforms

Have them. Work on them. Send out random tweets, update your FB page three times a week, get programs to help you do it if your time conscious. I have sold books based on my social networking, not many, but it’s a start. People know I exist, I have my own domain and website, if people try to look for me, they will find me. If they don’t know who I am and stumble upon me and like what I have to say then perhaps I’ve found someone who will read my book and love it as much as I do.

 

  1. Advertise

I see a lot of authors complaining their book isn’t selling but they aren’t willing to invest a little in smart advertising. And I do mean smart advertising. Don’t sell your dystopian Sci-Fi thriller to a contemporary romance e-magazine. Look up what other people are doing in your genre, and where their books are being displayed. I looked up “Steampunk e-newsletters” and found a group for fantasy/scifi fans and for a very small sum sold more books than with another enewsletter group wanting three times the price for a very generic readers group more interested in popular fiction i.e. romance.

I don’t have a romance…. Yet. Watch this space.

Or maybe not this pace but this website? Let’s stick with that.

 

  1. Get reviews

This is the hardest. Shouldn’t be right? But it is. How often when checking out a local restaurant do you see it only had 3 stars and after reading the mediocre reviews, give it a miss? Tripadvisor is a pinnacle of this, when I travel I check out the worst review and see if I can live with whatever warranted the poor review.

Now the tricky part. Don’t get friends and family to buy a copy, not read it, and say on Amazon: “This is better than Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings combined! Five stars! Buy this book!” People are going to look at those reviews and squint at them for being peculiar.

Join a readers group. Offer the book for free for honest reviews on your social media platforms. I can really recommend the Books Go Social Team, and their facebook groups. It’s a kind supportive and caring community and troll free (weird right? Yeah, completely troll free, indie authors don’t have time for that….)

 

Most of all? Don’t give up. I frequently wonder if getting up at 6am and staying awake till midnight is worth it, spending every spare second not at my full time job trying to squeeze in whatever task awaits next be it feeding the bottomless pit of twitter or facebook, checking reviews, editing, writing even, when I get to it. If you gave up writing on the keyboard then you will give up here. Don’t.

If you have a story you know you want to tell the world don’t give up. Don’t give in. Take a breath and realise what I did; that even though a year after publishing my first novella I’m not J.K. Rowling, but I have set out and achieved what I wanted, I started this, and by gods I’m going to finish it. If you really want this you’ll keep going too.

Having just come passed my one-year anniversary this has some inspiring positivity, frank attitude, and encouragement to keep going. If you are self-publishing and are not sure what to do, this is a great way to start…

Source: Ruining the reputation of self-publishing: an amateur writer, one year on.

The Storyteller

2017 has kicked off with a bang!

Artwork progresses for the book trailer for the Well of Youth, my wonderful artist Nushie also working on the book cover in conjuncture with Octagon Labs.

The beta readers have nothing but great and funny things to say about the Well thus far which is encouraging, and the editor has their claws into it already.

There have been more reviews of both the Hidden Monastery and the Last Prophecy over the holidays (*hugs reviewers* I love you best of all!), and they can’t wait for the Well of Youth.

I’ve been feeling pretty on top of the world.

And then John Hurt died.

My favourite author has always been Sir Terry Pratchett, whom I have no doubt is debating with Death still, and I can’t decide if they’d be playing chess or cards… Granny Weatherwax after all, couldn’t stand chess, but she had a knack for cards.

But when I found out John Hurt had passed away a part of me died inside, the same as when Pratchett passed away, and I’ve found myself rewatching the Storyteller and crying. It hadn’t occurred to me how much it would affect me to see him gone.

See, I had this vague plan that when I published the Well of Youth I was going to have a tattoo. I’d always wanted to get one, but I couldn’t until I’d found something meaningful. It had been drifting across my thoughts for years and didn’t come to fruition again until people started to ask me when I’d consider myself a successful author.

Stephen King says if you got a check in the mail and used it to pay bills he thinks you’re talented.

It wasn’t a bad place to start but it was more than that. I’ve done that already you see, I paid an artist to work on the images for the book trailer with the profits from the first book.

I wanted to do something to prove it to myself, and having “Storyteller” tattooed down my spine had the simplistic and beautiful analogy; I was a book of stories still yet to be told.

It was fanciful and I hadn’t planned it very thoroughly, but when John Hurt died something inside me snapped. I’d wanted to be a Storyteller since I first watched the Jim Henson series. I loved every episode; the dark magical mystery of them all.

I wanted to be a storyteller.

It isn’t simply a reminder to me, what I consistently forget during the harder parts of this process. I didn’t just get this far, I have begun to accomplish what I set out to do.

I am a storyteller.

storyteller

Of Things Come to Pass

2016 seems to have struck us all different ways; the celebrity deaths, the tragedy that is Aleppo, the bombs, the suicides, the deaths.

So many people suffered, and I know I was not alone in this.

Filled with personal pain and unspoken woe, my year was rife with more hardships than anyone but those closest to me knew. I couldn’t wait to see the end of this year that brought me so much adversity in so many aspects of my life, and to those I loved, that I forgot what I had accomplished.

I’ve published two books, that sold well, and written two more.

The Hidden Monastery has sold in the hundreds, the Last Prophecy is being better received than the first novella, and for those waiting for the full length novel, I yesterday finished the first draft of the Well of Youth, and have also finished the novella that comes after; to Chase a Prophecy.

I forgot until today when I sat down to write my end of year blog to be proud, or as my beloved father and beta reader says “Because you needed to give yourself more challenges than you already have.”

The sarcasm is strong in this family.

But how could I forget that it doesn’t matter how far I will go on, that I made it this far in the first place, and didn’t give up, no matter how hard and impossible it seemed that the thought stopped and shocked me, and I burst into tears, and couldn’t stop.

We forget in times of sorrow, personal losses, private pain, of what we have managed to do, what we should be proud of. So for 2016, I am not sorry to have seen it go, but I can stop to appreciate the time effort and work, of both myself, and with help of loved ones, in particular my husband.

He will never know how funny, loving and caring I think of him and I couldn’t thank him or think of him enough for his patience, time and kind words when all I had was cruelty for myself.

Don’t let 2016’s passing remind you of what you have lost, let it remind you that you are still here, that you carried on, and while we mourn those left behind, we should look to 2017 for those things, both good and bad, that it holds, that will shape and create us into people that we are proud of.

I’m stating, proudly, I made myself an author.

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This very late post was relegated to being on a my first available free day because there have been so many ups and downs lately, as there usually is at this time of the year, that I haven’t had time to sit down and write, let alone play games or do any of my normal activities.

Why?

Well there is exciting news.

The Last Prophecy was released on Halloween and has done tremendously well! I have been so happy to get this book out, as the story needed so much work, mostly because it is completely integral to the series going on, and as such had to be perfect, but also because it brought a whole lot of challenges and learning experiences I can only thank my editor for. His tireless work is how I got this book out and I couldn’t be more grateful to him for his immense help.

Its also been encouraging because of some of my feedback. I have to share the first words I got back from a friend/fan, I am now calling a frand. (Why not?);

“I hate you.”

Sounds awful doesn’t it? I couldn’t have been more pleased. It was a text sent at midnight during the week for someone who works hard and gets up early. So what had it meant? He stayed up reading it until it was done, got to the end and…wanted more.

Wanting more is the biggest compliment I think an author can get, and I am very flattered by that, regardless of the words used to convey it.

I can also finally show you the first piece of commissioned work for the promo video coming out next year. That is if you aren’t following me on FB where it’s been adored!

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Done by the artist Nushie, ( http://nushie.com/), we are collaborating to make a few of these, but I’m going to be cruel and only show you this one until the video comes out.

Hey, if Mr. Martin can torture his fans why can’t I?

Ok, so I’ll probably fold and show you the next one in my excitement but at least let’s pretend I can hold out.

Then there are downs.

When someone you love is terminally ill it’s infuriating that life doesn’t, can’t and won’t stop. The helplessness, frustration and inevitability of it has left me breathless, so full of emotion I didn’t know how to express; there simply hasn’t been enough tears I can cry.

But you get up and carry on, even if a part of you won’t let go and is never the same.

If only it were as easy as those words.

I am simply grateful for the loved ones around me who support me through both; the good and the very bad. In both instances they have made the moments that more memorable, knowing I have such family and friends coming together during such a chaotic and emotional time.

Conforming to Genre

I hated this part of being an author, I really did.

“What genre is your book?”

“It’s a steam flavoured fantasy with a suspense/horror twist.”

It was written all over their face. “What?”

I had a great idea for a story, and it turned into a great idea for a series but there were problems. When I brought up my book to publish it had to be listed into a specific genre. There wasn’t a choice it had to be somewhere with books of similar nature. This makes sense, I don’t want to find a biography in the fantasy section, but it still irked me because my book wasn’t just one genre.

It had elements of steam level technology, a genre I love but is often overwhelming with its political based plots or dozens of fantastic gadgets. Each in their own way cool, but not what I was doing specifically. My books have elements of those things; I have airships, corsets, intrigue and bizarre contraptions, but they are not the only part of my books.

I have based it in a completely made up fantastical world of my own design with my own quirks, charms and unknown depths. It features things that can’t be explained by science in their world or ours, and are not entirely magical in the sense of traditional stereotypical magic. There was to be no wands, or mythical forces with limitless unfathomable power. Yet there would be things that defied the law of nature, physics and life as we know it.

This was adventure, that would lead its heroes and heroines into great peril, with untold value at the end, but at great risk. There were darker things that wait for them, enemies who have their own goals, and creatures lost in time. There will be something that moves in the shadows. After all, it’s not thrilling without a bit of danger!

There would be in some cases love, and comradeship, but this isn’t a romance series or a book about friends. I have touched on real word issues that are important to me but have tried not to swamp the reader with my ideologies.

Most of all I had a story in my head that had all these things; a great adventure that stretched from the finding of ancient artefacts to this world’s version of modern science and contraptions that would change the world. It would test and try its characters with what is to come, and be a great story I enjoy telling.

I have to list my books in a genre, but where its specified on the genre list isn’t all it is; it’s my story. I define it.

I know. Orchids don’t have a scent. But it was fun for a moment to imagine that if they did, what would they smell like; would they be softly fragrant? Delicate and prone to wafting too quickly away? Or,  like the flower itself, bold and beautiful and different for every type?

I also stopped to smell the daffodils at the emergence of Spring, on this side of the globe, after the end of a long and tumultuous month involving moving house for family reasons in less than two weeks. The change is huge for us, right out into the country and I love it as I grew up miles from anything like a city, but it comes with its challenges.

Over one of which I have a confession to make. I didn’t write all month. I’m sorry.

There just wasn’t time, and I always promised I’d always make time but, circumstances being what they are, it didn’t happen. I feel so appallingly guilty for that, as though if you knew you’d be disappointed, and nobody could be more so than myself. The Well of Youth was supposed to be finished by the end of August and I’m so far out on my schedule since I had a plot change in late July involving thousands of words worth of rewrites and that’s not even the worst part.

The worst part is I didn’t even have time to think about the story.

I always think about the plot, it helps me go to sleep at night. No, really, it does.

But I went to bed most nights so exhausted all I could think about was which books I were going to make the cut or be put in storage. How were my two cats going to get along with the cat they were moving in with? (Pictures will show their precarious situation and how worried they are).

I didn’t even get a chance to look at the website until I realised August was over and I hadn’t done my monthly post. What can I tell you? Life got in the way. It does that sometimes.

I’m not going to carry this personal failure onwards, and even though time is scarce, I will just endevour to do better. And that’s a lesson in itself. I’m here and making time to do what I love. Sometimes life will get in the way of that. That doesn’t mean I will wallow in guilt and give up, rereading the story after all that time will be refreshing, and if I finish this book by a certain date in October then I’ll have earned the self indulgent day spa treatment I’ve already booked.

Goals can be rearranged, they have to adjust to life, because nothing you hold onto is completely within your control, and it is far better to work towards those goals than worry about what you haven’t done.
Stop and imagine the elusive scent of the orchids.20160904_174613 20160903_154714(1)