Friday, December 31, 2010

Year in Review

2010 started off with high hopes and ended with some major disappointments. I've been contemplating the good, the bad and the ugly lately as I prepare to wish a final farewell to 2010.

The bad and the ugly have almost entirely been personal sufferings with family. I'd rather not dwell on them and hope that 2011 treats us better. I do want to focus on the good, which mostly has to do with my writing. Of course, not all has been great, but the bad and the ugly have been definite learning experiences.

My year in review:
  • I started a blog! This blog, actually, which morphed along the way (combining with my blog for a while) and came back to here. My blogoversary is coming up in January. Yes, I've been blogging for a year and what a fantastic time it has been!
  • I also started tweeting! Something I swore I'd never do because I didn't "get" it. I'm glad I decided to check it out because I've met so many wonderful and lovely people.
  • With all this social media stuff, I've met hundreds of fantabulous writer friends. Like you. The camaraderie and support I've found in the online writers' world simply amazes me.
  • After some crazy revisions that were mostly thrown out, I made the realization that I'd written two books, not just one called Purpose. So I made the decision to split it, creating Promise and Purpose.
  • My business partner and I decided to start a second company - a publishing company - and we took on our first author - me! This has been an incredible learning experience that continues to push us beyond our boundaries each day. I've loved (nearly) every minute of it and look forward to the future it has in store for both of us...and others.
  • I didn't do a whole lot of writing this year, when I really look back at it. I had to write an ending for Promise, but that was really revising what was already there and adding in some wrap-ups to tie loose ends. I did add about 30,000 words to Purpose to make it a complete book after the split. With the previously mentioned discarded revisions, I've probably written about 50-60,000 words this year...compared to about 250-300,000 in 2009.
  • Of course, I didn't do much writing because I released two books in 2010!!!! Those are my big, all-time, major accomplishments of the year that have made everything else bearable
  • We didn't sell as many books as our overly optimistic goals had set in the beginning, but when I look at the numbers, I'm giddy about all the people who actually paid money to read my writing. And then there are the reviews, which have blown me away, as well as the award.
  • My Writers Health Plan - the one that consists of loads of coffee, chocolate and time with butt-in-chair - has proven itself successful...if I wanted to gain weight, anyway. Which I didn't. In fact, I needed to lose a bunch. I think I'll be reconsidering this plan for 2011. 
In my writing world, 2010 has been the best year ever. It's been a year of amazing growth and achieving the one accomplishment I'd been dreaming about since I was 8 years old - publishing a book. But I'm ready for it to be over and to take on the new year with new challenges and opportunities.

Bring it on, 2011!!!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Not *Really* Procrastinating

I'm supposed to be writing. This was supposed to be my Writer Break, where I get to pretend like I'm a full-time writer. But here it is Thursday already and I haven't written a single word. At least, not in any kind of story.

My head has primarily been in other people's worlds. I've been a total reading addict the last week or so, with six books (that I can remember - maybe more!) finished. It's been a struggle to get back into my own world because I've had so much fun in these others. My favorite has been The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare.

Clare has totally sucked me in. Her writing is beautiful, the stories are exciting and I felt like I actually lived in the Shadowhunter world. I decided to finally pick these books up because so many people have said, "If you like The Mortal Instruments, you'll love Promise and the Soul Savers series." I can definitely see why they say that. They're not alike...yet they are.

Having plowed through the three hefty books in five days, I'm starting them over. This time from a writer's perspective. Since I started writing fiction seriously, I've realized that I need to do this with series, especially those I love. Knowing what happens allows me to go back and see how the author built up the story as a whole from book to book. I know this particular series isn't over, but I love this world so much, that I feel compelled to study it in more depth.

What I have realized so far are the similarities between Clare's world and J.K. Rowling's. Not that The Mortal Instruments and Harry Potter have much in common, besides magic and teenage main characters. It's how the authors have built their worlds. Rich details, languages, customs, traditions, government...etc. And how they have created - and stayed within - their created rules. These are the details that pull us into their worlds, making them feel as real and believable as our own...and making us wish they were real and we could live in them.

Additionally, in a series, each story builds upon events and experiences in previous books, with all of them adding up to one epic story. Although the story of The Mortal Instruments isn't yet over, you can see how Clare has already done this with the first three books. And there's no denying Rowling is a master of leading you up to that big climactic scene that is not only the climax of the last book but of the entire story.

These accomplishments, not only made by Clare and Rowling but by countless other authors of fantabulous series, don't come accidentally. And that's what makes my heart pound and my lungs cease up when I think about it. Because I am a pantser.

I have an understanding of the overall plot and where I'm going, I make notes when new plot elements and twists come to mind, but I don't like to outline. It scares me. In the past, whenever I outlined in detail, I knew what would happen and lost interest in the project. With two books in my series out now, I cannot lose interest! So, yeah, I panic a little when I think about this. And I know it's part of my writing block right now. But I have to do it.

So...I have been. I've been compiling my scattered notes from spiral notebooks and the computer into my world's bible - an organized three-ring notebook that I can easily reference. I have tabs for Alexis and Tristan and minor characters. A tab for creatures, a tab for the Amadis and another for the Daemoni. And each book has a tab so that my thoughts and ideas that I've been writing down actually can be grouped together by book (because flipping around the spirals is frustrating!). This is where I can keep notes and keep going back to so I don't break my own rules. Fantasy writers, especially, need such a bible.

I've also been fleshing out my world - its history, its mythology, the characters and creatures, etc. - to make the bible more complete. And, gasp!, I've been outlining. I've been planning the rest of the series - taking my ideas out of my head and actually putting them on paper. I'm stuck where I always get stuck when thinking about the whole series, but I'm working on it.

I've eased the panic by telling myself that these are very general outlines that are not set in concrete...that I can still let the characters tell me the story and it might - and probably will be - different than what I've planned. There were many things in The Mortal Instruments that I could see coming from a mile away, but I didn't lose interest because I wanted to know how they would happen. It's not about knowing the outcome - it's experiencing the events as they unfold to get there. And that's how I've allowed myself to view these outlines.

So I've made little - okay, none - writing progress. I've been discovering and getting lost in other lovely worlds, but I don't consider it a waste at all. I've learned - and continue learning - from others. And building my bible has also reconnected me to my own world. I will write again. Very soon. In the meantime...back to, I mean Clary.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Epublishing and Smashwords

More and more authors are going the way of epublishing. Why? Many reasons, not least of them being that traditional publishers are pushing us that way. Take a look at this:

and this:

Right now, it's not for everyone. In a few might be the ONLY way to get started, get noticed and get published by a big 5.

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Purple and Purpose

You may already know by now my history as a writer: Knew I wanted to write when I was 8 and wrote my first story; as I grew older (and, arguably, matured), I thought I didn't have a whole book in me and was meant to write for business; when I decided to dabble in fiction again, a full story for not just one book but an entire series suddenly came to me; and Promise, Purpose and the Soul Savers Series were born. From the moment I decided to write fiction again, everything about it felt right and writing this story felt like my purpose (one of the reasons for the second book's title).

As I wrote, funny little things happened that you could call kismet or fate or whatever. For example, the story behind Alexis getting her name. The short of it is that I'd always wanted to name my daughter Alexis since I was a teen, but I ended up having three boys. We had a female dog we named Lexi, but she became sick and died at a year old. Years ago, I gave up ever having my own Alexis. When I started writing this series and decided my MC needed a name, I needed it to mean "defender" or "protector." When I went to and did a reverse look-up for names that mean those things, only one female name came up: Alexis. It still gives me chills.

Other strange events occurred that kept reinforcing the idea that I was meant to write these characters' stories. I've written about some of these in past posts. The bottom line is that I've come to believe in this story and my purpose.

I never, however, believed that I should design the covers or anything else visually related. That's just not my forte. If I had my choice, however, I would have used the purple and black color scheme, basically because I like it. Purple, which I've always known to represent nobility and royalty, does play a minor role in future books, but that didn't mean it would become the "color" of the series. But I did end up designing the covers and websites, so I went with my lavender, purple, silver and black scheme.

Then I learned something that brought back those chills of fate. On Monday, I shared several things I learned at the Miami Book Fair International. What I didn't list there is that I also learned some meanings of lavender and purple I never knew before. A lady started talking to me about the colors of our booth and my book covers. I hadn't really had a chance to tell her about my books yet, so she didn't know what they were about. And here's what she told me:

Lavender can represent major change. In my books, lavender represents the youngest daughter of the Amadis royal family. Every daughter goes through a significant physical, emotional and mental change called the Ang'dora. The Ang'dora plays a large role in both of the first books, whose covers are more on the lavender side of purple, although Purpose is darker than Promise.

Darker purple, this woman said, not only signifies nobility, royalty and wealth, but also spirituality (which I knew),  enlightenment, magic and mystery...and it is a matriarchal color. In my books, the matriarch of the Amadis is represented by a darker, deeper purple. She is also the most enlightened, has the closest connection to the Otherworld and, therefore, to enlightenment and magic.

Of course, I came home and hopped online to verify this woman's explanations. And, yes, I did confirm it all on several sites. I couldn't find where lavender specifically means change, but purple in general does represent transformation in a variety of cultures and religions. I also found that in some cultures, it speaks of faith, patience and trust and it is the color of the Crown Chakra, connecting one with infinite consciousness. These are all very important elements in my stories.

So another thing I learned in Miami is that my book covers are more symbolic than I ever realized. Sure glad it all fits. I would have been devastated to find out purple really meant evil or demonic. Gads! I'd have to change everything!

What about you? Ever have weird little things like this happen that told you you're meant to write your stories? Or do you think I'm just reading way too much into things for myself? (Which I don't care because it works for me. lol)