Being a Writer

Now Available on Amazon.com for Kindle and in Paperback

I’m delighted to announce the launch of my latest book: “The Weight of Air: A Short Story,” and the accompanying giveaway of 50 copies of the Kindle Edition! Enter the Giveaway!

An early version of this story had been collecting dust in my desk drawer (my computer, really) for nearly two years. I liked the original story called “Murdering Time,” but couldn’t generate a lot of interest in it from literary journals. I realized it lacked something—I just wasn’t sure what.

Then, a few months ago, I received a number of emails from a Canadian publication, Broken Pencil Magazine, urging me to submit a story to their Indie Writers Deathmatch (yes, it really was a bloodbath). So I decided to pull out a creepy old sci-fi story I’d written a few years back but never published, and I revised it for the contest. Lo and behold the story, “Fogger,” was accepted as one of the 16 finalists in the Deathmatch, and went on to make it to the semi-finals. I was happy to receive a prize package from the magazine, but was even more excited to learn that they had decided to publish my story.

The experience inspired me to pull out more of my old stories that I’d previously given up on and refurbish them. I’m very happy I did. This new story, “The Weight of Air,” is twice as long as the original, and I finally figured out where the story was supposed to go. It’s amazing what a difference some time, distance, and a couple of additional years of writing experience make!

Once it was completed, I submitted “The Weight of Air” to a few literary journals. When I received a rejection, I was actually thrilled. I know it sounds strange, but the editor wrote to me that “there is much to admire in this story, but unfortunately it is not a good fit for [our journal].” She went on to say that it would probably do well with a journal looking to publish more commercial fiction. She also enclosed the comments of the reader reviewer at the journal, which were extremely complimentary. Among other things, the reader said it had a “Compelling plot that both anticipates and upends readers’ predictions/expectations,” and that it was a “delight to read.” That made me feel great!

Since delighting readers is really my major goal, I decided to publish the story myself! I hope you will check out The Weight of Air on Amazon. And, my advice is to all you writers out there: Don’t ever give up on your work, maybe that story or novel just needs a little tweaking. It’s worth taking a second look and a second leap!

Please enter the Weight of Air Launch Giveaway!

I spent last weekend in Washington DC in order to attend the Women’s March on Washington. My sister who lives in Park City, Utah, met me there and we stayed with my daughter and her fiancé who live in DC only blocks from the march’s gathering point. The Saturday event was unquestionably one of the most profoundly moving experiences of my life. The speakers weren’t focused solely on “women’s issues.” Many causes were represented, and people from all walks of life came together to show the world how much we care about the direction in which our country is moving. I was heartened and uplifted by the peaceful joining of our voices for freedom, justice and equality.

On Sunday, when I boarded my flight back to Florida, I remained inspired and uplifted by my experience of the previous day. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t match my sunny mood. We were told almost immediately we’d be waiting on the tarmac until the pilot received word that the storms around the Tampa airport had subsided. Among the last people to board our flight was an attractive young family. The mother was black, the father white, and the two small children seemed a perfect combination of both. The seating assignments were broken up so that the father and the youngest son were sitting in the row in front of me, the mother was seated by the window in the row behind me, and the older boy, who appeared to be about eight, took the window seat next to mine.

The wait on the ground seemed interminable, and I noticed that the boy had no book, no bag, no electronic device, nothing to keep him occupied. Nevertheless he was quiet and well behaved. I busied myself by reading and reflecting on the weekend.

After we were cleared for takeoff and our plane became airborne, the pilot announced it was too turbulent for the flight attendants to perform their usual beverage service, and the seatbelt sign would remain on throughout the flight. I began to feel terribly sorry for the young man next to me, and rummaged through my bag looking for something that might interest him. At a loss, I pulled out my cell phone. I didn’t want to seem overly forward, so I began to play a game on the phone. He watched over my shoulder for a few minutes. Then I asked, “Do you know how to play this game?” He shook his head. “It’s pretty easy,” I said, “and it shows you moves if you can’t find one. Do you want to try?”

“No thank you,” he told me. Then he peeked his head around the seat and whispered something to his mom. When he turned back he was beaming. “She says it’s okay,” he announced, so I gave him my phone and explained some of the game’s basics to him.

For the next two and a half hours the young man happily mastered every entertainment app on my phone. I was truly impressed with his abilities and his sweet disposition. His joy at reaching new game levels was contagious.

Once we landed in Tampa, he handed the phone back to me and thanked me profusely. As we taxied to our gate I asked if he lived in Florida, and he nodded. “We were in Washington for the Inauguration,” said, and proudly pulled his red “Make America Great Again” hat from his jacket pocket. This came as a surprise to me considering the racial make-up of his family, the fact that his parents had taught him excellent manners, and my observation that they policed his free time activities—not things I considered attributes of the normal Trump supporter.

“I have to ask you something,” he said, “are you a Trumper or a Hillary Clinton supporter?”

“I’m a Hillary Clinton supporter,” I told him, “but that doesn’t mean we can’t be friends, right?”

“Right!” he said, and we shook hands.

As we were deplaning, the boy’s father expressed his appreciation to me and asked if his son had thanked me also. I assured him he did. The boy said, “Dad, she’s a Hillary Clinton supporter, but she said we can still be friends.”

The father laughed. “That’s right we’re all on the same team, son. We want the country to be safe, secure, and prosperous. We just disagree on how to go about achieving that, but we all still hope for the best.”

I was impressed with the graciousness, intelligence, and embodiment of diversity of this little family, which left me even more bewildered as to why the parents would embrace our new president so heartily. The last election had shaken me to my core. It wasn’t only the caliber of man who was elected; it’s what the people who supported him had to overcome in order to cast their vote for him. The death of civility in the political process was regrettable, but dangerous behaviors like joking about sexual assault, mocking the disabled, and spreading false news were absolutely disqualifying in my view. The basic tenets of human decency appeared to be no longer valued by large swaths of the American people, and I longed to know why.

Within my struggle to understand why this seemingly intelligent couple with strong family values would vote for such a man, there came a glimmer of hope. My belief is that many of those who voted for Trump did so out of a overriding desire for positive change and in spite of his abhorrent behavior. While I still consider it a calamitous decision to ignore what a person does in favor of what he says he’ll do, it’s my deepest hope that if and when the promised positive change does not materialize, those Americans who still cherish the values of honesty, integrity, fairness will hold this president directly accountable and vote their conscience in our next election.

In the meantime, I continue to desire only the best for our country, which is why I will also continue to raise my voice in an effort to protect our inalienable rights to truth, freedom of expression, justice, and equality. That’s #whyimarch.

Image of Jaden from Illuminosity

 JadenIlluminosity

Time for true confessions: When I first got into the business of writing novels, I was as naïve as they come. I’d practiced law for a number of years, worked hard to reach the upper echelons of corporate management, and then, feeling tired and burned out, took some blessed time off to be at home with my two kids. At one point, when my youngest was in middle school, I got it into my head that I could write the next Harry Potter or Twilight series. So, with no training whatsoever, I set out to do just that. It took me four years to complete my YA sci-fi series, the Transcender Trilogy—a year longer than it took me to complete law school, and every bit as much of an education. So far, I’m sorry to say, it hasn’t broken any sales records! 🙂 But I never had so much fun!

Recently, I received a Certificate in Editing from Poynter University and ACES (American Copy Editors Society). This article is my first on the editing process. I hope that by sharing some of my own initial faux pas, I can spare others from making similar mistakes.

Five Costly Mistakes I Made:

  1. Having my manuscript edited too early in the process. From the moment I put the last period on the last sentence of my first complete manuscript, I began searching for an editor. The writing process had been long and arduous, and I was so thrilled to be finished at long last, that I didn’t realize my draft still needed A LOT of work. Big Mistake. The document I received back from my first editor was crammed with so many comments, corrections, and suggestions for revision that I was forced to hire a second editor just to edit my rewrites, and a third to proofread and copyedit the final draft (because, as I learned the hard way—rewrites introduce brand new errors).

My Advice: Save yourself a ton of time, money, and heartache—once your manuscript is complete, celebrate by taking some time off to savor your tremendous accomplishment. Put the manuscript away for at least a week (longer if possible) and then go back to it with fresh eyes and a red pen. I assure you, you’ll find a ton of things that need correcting or revising prior to sending it off to an editor.

  1. Not having a clear agreement with my editor as to what and how her services were to be provided. I still shake my head in amazement when I think of how careless I was about pinning down details with the editors I hired. With my background, I should’ve known better, but at the time, I didn’t understand about the many levels of editing—which range from ghostwriting to simple proofreading and grammar fixes—and the different sets of duties that go along with each level. Even more eye-opening for me was the fact that not every editor provides comments and corrections in the same fashion. I swear this anecdote is true: one supposedly experienced editor I hired actually retyped my entire manuscript making her changes as she went along, and providing me with no way to determine what those changes were. I was devastated by her arrogance and forced to trash all of her work, since she had essentially made my book her own. I also had to eat the not inconsiderable sum I’d already paid for her services and find another editor.

My Advice: Reputable editors will clearly spell out their services before undertaking a project. You may ask for different or additional services, but expect to pay more if you add services. You probably don’t need a seven-page, signed contract with your editor, but you should get the final agreed-upon list of services in writing. Also, ALL reputable editors will clearly mark their changes on your original document. Some still do this by hand on a hard copy of the manuscript, but most now use the “track changes” function in a word processing program, which allows you to “accept” or “reject” the change with a simple keystroke. If it’s not expressly stated, ask your editor how comments and corrections will be handled.

  1. Hiring an editor because she was cheap and discovering she knew less about editing than I did. These days, whether you’re attempting to find and agent or going the self-publishing route, your book needs to be polished and up to professional standards. I’ve had the good fortune of working with a couple of amazing editors over the years, but my experience has been that good editors don’t come cheap. This is an area where you cannot afford to scrimp, though. Publishers and literary agents have little tolerance for sample pages with misspellings and format errors, and readers will absolutely crucify you on Amazon if you self-publish a book that is poorly edited.

My Advice: Interview a few editors—in person or via Skype or email—before you hire someone. No specific degree or certificate is required for someone to say they are an editor, so make certain the one you hire has the credentials and experience you’re looking for. It helps if that person has previously edited or written in your genre, or at least has a good working knowledge of the area. Also, find someone whose personality and work ethic mesh with yours. The editor-writer relationship requires clear communication, evenhanded negotiation, and mutual respect.

  1. Taking editorial comments personally and not as suggestions to improve my manuscript. Many editing courses strongly emphasize the delicate task editors undertake in proposing improvements to a writer’s work without offending him or her. Nobody needed to explain that to me—I already learned it first hand. Over the course of having my three books and several short stories edited, I’d experienced anger, frustration, and even tears over certain editorial comments regarding my precious work. Didn’t my editor understand these were my babies she wanted to do away with? Every writer hopes his or her editor will say, “Wow! This manuscript is perfect just the way it is!” But believe me, no matter how well you write, that’s never going to happen. You’re going to have to sacrifice some of your “little darlings” along the way.

My Advice: Remember, editorial comments are only suggestions—one person’s opinion–which you are entitled to ignore if you wish. BUT, editors are also readers, and if one reader has a problem with your novel’s pacing, or a certain passage, plot-point, or character, it’s in your best interest to seriously consider whether other readers might have the same reaction. Regarding revisions, Mary Barnhill said, “…every cut hurts, but something new always grows.” So grow some thicker skin—you’re going to need it when those Amazon reviews start pouring in! 

  1. Being in a rush to query agents/publish my book. I know, I know, you’ve spent months, maybe even years writing your manuscript, now you want to share it with the world and begin reaping the benefits for all your hard labor. After all, your mother said it’s the best book she’s ever read, right? Stop for a minute, and remember Hemingway’s observation: “The only kind of writing is rewriting.” Edits always require some amount of rewriting. At times, large portions of your manuscript will need to be reworked. In the past, I was impatient and sometimes rushed my rewrites—particularly with my last book, when I was receiving almost daily pressure from readers anxious for the final installment of the trilogy. In hindsight, I probably should have relaxed and allowed myself more time for rewrites.

My Advice: Don’t short-change yourself and your project—take all the time you need to thoroughly address any editorial comments. Discuss them with your editor, and think them through rather than just slapping a Band-Aid on the problem. My trilogy has been well received, and the experience as a whole was invaluable, but I sometimes wish I could go back and rewrite those books, using what I’ve since learned about writing and editing. Some will tell you, “Done is better than perfect.” But your writing will forever stand as a reflection on you. If you take the time to polish your work to the point where you can say, “This is as tight and perfect as I can make it,” you can always be proud of the final product. 

Good Luck to you in all your writing endeavors!

On Writing, Stephen King

On Writing, Stephen King

Not wrestling the guy–just his advice! Continuing my series on my favorite quotes and epigraph, I want to share two quotes (and the epigraph) from Stephen King’s book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft – one quote I love and agree with completely the other quote is, in my humble opinion, 100% wrong, and terrible advice for writers!

Before I get to the quotations, a word about the book On Writing: I highly recommend it to anyone who is a writer or considering becoming a writer. Although I found the memoir part to be a bit slow and boring, I dare say King’s fans will find it fascinating. More importantly the advice bits in the book (with the exception noted below) are incredibly valuable and worth the slog through the rest. Pay special attention to the appendices at the back of the book: “And Furthermore Part I,” which contains an actual example of King’s editing process (worth studying); “And Furthermore Part II,” which contains a lovely book list.

My favorite King quote: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

In my own work I’ve found this to be absolutely true! Reading, reading, reading, good books, bad books, poetry, literary journals, movie reviews, even a well written cereal box contributes to your knowledge and skills. For me there’s nothing more inspiring than a piece of brilliant writing. It forces me to strive for excellence in my own work. Even crappy writing has its place—to instruct us what not to do. Some complain it’s difficult finding the time to read, and admittedly, I don’t always have time to read a novel, but so much wonderful short writing exists out there today, there’s really no excuse. Check out Kindle Singles! As far as writing goes, I’ve found these skills must be exercised, or like flabby thighs, they begin to lose tone and appeal.

My least favorite King quote: “Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.”

WRONG! Please, if you’re a new writer or considering becoming a writer, do not follow this advice. In your work, it’s of the utmost importance to use precisely the best word to convey the action, thought, or feeling you’re trying to get across to the reader. Well, guess what? That precise word does not always pop right into your mind! (Unless you’re SK, apparently) You may be able to visualize it, feel it, hear it, even smell it, but at times the proper word may frustratingly elude you. At these moments, the thesaurus is your best friend. I use it dozens of times a day—sometimes just to check to be certain there’s not a better word than the one I’ve already chosen. I believe that makes me a better writer. Sorry, Mr. King, but I take exception to your rule!

As a little bonus, I leave you with the epigraph to King’s On Writing. It always makes me smile:

Honesty’s the best policy.~ Miguel de Cervantes

Liars prosper.~ Anonymous

Apologies to anyone who thought this post was about wrestling! 🙂

Tea Party

Tea Party

“When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.” ~ Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles.

I love great quotations and epigraph. In fact, my original draft of Transcender: First Timer, featured an epigraph at the beginning of each chapter, but due to space and copyright considerations, I dropped them before publishing the book. Since, as you may have noticed, I’ve had a bit of difficulty keeping up with my blog recently *blushes*, which I attribute to lack of a consistent theme, I’ve decided to select a favorite quotation or epigraph each week and write about it here.

I chose to begin this blog series with one of my favorite quotations on writing from Steven Pressfield’s the War of Art, a book I highly recommend to any writer or aspiring writer. For me, the above quotation beautifully sums up a strange phenomenon that sometimes occurs when I’m writing. During those mystical magical times, when I’m in the zone and the elusive Muse drops by for tea, the story takes on a life of it’s own, almost as if it’s writing itself. It can be an eerie experience. I’ve had characters say and do things I never planned or even dreamed of including in the storyline. But in that otherworldly place where my own existence is subservient to the narrative, it’s the characters’ story not mine, and I’ve found it best to let them run with it.

For example [spoiler alert if you haven’t read the entire Transcender Trilogy]: In a scene in Book Two of the Trilogy, one character tells another that someone with whom she is close is not human at all, but an automaton. Of course she was stunned to learn this—but so was I! It definitely was NOT a planned plot element. I soon realized, however, I should have known it all along, and if he could fool me, he could certainly fool her. In fact it worked so well with the rest of the story that I couldn’t imagine why I hadn’t thought of it in the first place.

These are the mind-blowing moments that make all the drudgery, anxiety, and crippling self-doubt of being a writer worthwhile. Of course, it takes some sustained writing for this marvel to occur, but anyone who has slogged away crafting an entire book has most likely entertained the Muse on more than one occasion. Here’s hoping she visits you (and me) often!

Wishing you happy reading and writing and Happy Father’s Day to all you dads or surrogate dad’s out there!

Award for the short story "Nowhere, Man," by Vicky Savage

Award for the short story “Nowhere, Man,” by Vicky Savage

Okay, okay, I know it’s not even Halloween yet, but I’m feeling in the Christmas mood. The holiday season always inspires me to be hopeful and energized. That feeling of excitement arrived a bit early for me this year! free-clipart-christmas-4niBb89cA

This logo in the left corner is an award I was honored to receive in Writer’s Digest’s annual writing competition for my short story “Nowhere, Man.” One of the reasons I’ve neglected my blog for so many months is that I’ve been focused like a maniac on improving the quality of my writing by creating shorter works of fiction (and a bit of non-fiction and poetry). This award was like receiving an early Christmas present. It’s gratifying to have my work recognized, and I sincerely hope to see more of these darlings in the future!

Delving into the world of literary short fiction has been an eye opening, educational, and sometimes frustrating experience. On the positive side, the satisfaction derived from completing a project comes much more often than with novel writing. A novel can take me up to a year or more to complete. On the negative side, the rejections also arrive much more often. One of my workshop instructors noted that the odds of having a short story published in a literary magazine are lower than the odds of getting into Harvard. As daunting as that statistic sounds, the worst part for me is actually having to develop new project ideas at a dizzying pace. Finish one story and bam! gotta start another one. All my old characters and the worlds I created must be abandoned for new ones, and just when I was getting to know them. But the next tale is always waiting to be spun.

I learned something valuable about myself during this process: While I enjoy writing short stories, and will always have one or two in the works, my temperament is better suited to long term projects (novels and series). I like getting up each morning and knowing exactly what I’m going to write that day. It may not always come out precisely as I intended when I sat down, but at least I know what the chapter is supposed to be about. And I like making friends with my characters and having them in my life for more than a few weeks at a time.

Consequently, I’m working on getting back to my roots and developing ideas for a new series (Yay!). I’m also compiling a collection of some of my short stories, which I hope to publish around the first of the year, while continuing to submit my already completed stories to contests and publications.

I regret I’ve been so absorbed in other projects that I haven’t updated my blog more frequently and haven’t posted many (read: any) book reviews lately, but I intend to be more diligent about that. Two non-fiction books I’ve read recently and highly recommend are:

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert. Can’t say enough about this wonderful book and its healthy approach to living the creative life. It’ll make you feel good about yourself and whatever creative outlet you choose to pursue. I listened to the audio book narrated by the author and found it absorbing and entertaining throughout.

How to Write Short, Word Craft for Fast Times, by Roy Peter Clark. Roy Clark is a real smart guy when it comes to the art of writing, and I love all of his books, but this one is my favorite. Not just for writers, it has practical advice for everyone on how to write shorter and crisper, whether posting a tweet, or undertaking the great American novel.

Hope to share more soon. In the meantime, have a Happy Halloween!
jack-o-lantern-630382_1920

 

*On my birthday my amazing daughter gave me Joni Mitchell The Complete Poems and Lyrics. I’d sleep with this awesome book under my pillow if I thought some of Joni’s creativity could transfer to me by osmosis! You may recognize the title of this post from one of her songs.

The Reader, Jean-Honore Fragonard

The Reader, Jean-Honore Fragonard

I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from social media lately and it’s been refreshing, but its time to get back on that horse, and my first order of business is this blog post (apologies to my Facebook and Twitter friends). I have been busy personally during this little respite—traveling, getting through the holidays, and moving into a new house. I have also been busy professionally writing short fiction. It’s true! Those of you who have read my somewhat long-winded trilogy may not believe it possible, but lately I’ve been turning out finished products that are between 3000 and 5000 words. Why? Well, I was inspired to try my hand at short fiction for several reasons—the major ones being to explore new ideas and try out new genres. Also, I read this wonderful article by Anne R. Allen http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/9-ways-writing-short-stories-can-pay-off-for-writers, which suggests, “short stories are having a revival in the digital age.” One need only look at the success of Kindle Singles for confirmation of this statement. http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2013/sep/05/amazon-kindle-singles-short

 

If that isn’t reason enough to write short fiction, here are some other considerations that influenced me, and five reasons why you may want think about taking it up yourself.

 

  1. You Probably Already Have Short Story Material Lying Around.

This summer I took some writing workshops for fun and my own edification. I had in mind to use my assignments to explore ideas for my next novel, but by the end of the summer I still had not decided which plot I was most attracted to—I loved them all. Then I realized that I already had material enough for at least three short stories using what I had written in my workshops. If you’re like me and many other writers, you probably have numerous half-written novels or stories growing mold in a desk drawer or on a flash drive. Why not dig out these hidden gems, dust them off, and revise them as short fiction? Don’t let all that hard work go to waste. Use your skills to transform your discarded material into something salable. Don’t get me wrong, writing short stories is an art, and you need a slightly different skill set to master the craft, but there is help out there. I found these two books to be enormously informative: Short Story: From First Draft to Final Product, by Michael Milton http://www.amazon.com/SHORT-STORY-FIRST-Draft-Product-ebook/dp/B00FDUMTRE; and Let’s Write a Short Story, by Joe Bunting http://www.amazon.com/Lets-Write-Short-Story-Bunting-ebook/dp/B008Z96GF6

 

  1. Writing Short Fiction Helps Hone Your Writing Skills.

One of the best and most experienced editors I ever met told me that the key to good writing is clarity. I’ve never forgotten this and have lately striven to make my writing more crisp and concise. Writing short fiction forces you to do this. You take a big story and whittle it down to the minimum amount of words possible to get the reader on board, sweep them along for the ride, and deposit them at the end of the express lane feeling deeply satisfied. It’s not always easy, but it forces you to dump every superfluous adjective and adverb and use the precise word necessary to covey the exact idea or emotion you’re trying to get across. I took one of my stories that began at 5700 words and cut it down to 5000 words to enter it into a short story contest. Then I found another contest that seemed even more perfect for my story, the problem was, I had to cut it nearly in half—to 3000 words. It was painful! But, I was shocked to find that I actually liked the 3000-word story much better. It was an enlightening exercise.

 

  1. You See the Results of Your Labor Much Sooner.

It took me about a year to write each of my three novels—that’s a big chunk of time. Looking at the busy year ahead of me, I decided I wanted to take on some shorter projects that would allow me to do more in the same amount of time. Writing short fiction has not only given me a sense of accomplishing more in less time, but it has also opened up a new area of interest for me, which I can turn to whenever I’m stuck in my writing or looking for a pleasant distraction. I’ve even done a little genre-hopping with my stories. Writing short fiction has also boosted my writing confidence and given me a better understanding of story structure (which is the same regardless of length).

 

  1. Writing Short Fiction Gives You Credibility.

Okay, I won’t lie—it’s difficult to have a short story accepted for publication and the review process takes a long time, months in fact. But agents and publishers will tell you that winning a short story contest or having a story appear in a reputable publication, beefs up your resume’ (or query) considerably. We’re all looking for credibility and recognition even if we don’t aspire to be traditionally published.

 

  1. Writing Short Fiction Pays.

Many literary publications pay thousands of dollars for the short stories they publish (and the copyright almost always reverts to the author). Also, dozens of contests are held each year offering hefty cash prizes for the winners in addition to publication. Then, too your story may be picked up for inclusion in an anthology—another great way to earn money. But hey, if you have a story that is polished and you feel will appeal to the masses (or even just your fan base) you can publish it yourself. Kindle Singles sell for prices ranging between $0.99 and $4.99—or about the same as a full-length book.

 

If any of this has inspired you to delve further into the opportunities out there for short fiction, you’ll find many helpful articles and books out there to guide you along. Good luck with your writing, and keep an eye out for some of my stories coming soon on Kindle (and elsewhere, I hope!).

vladstudio_frosted_1024x768_signed

May the wonder of the Holiday be yours!

 

Christmastime always makes me nostalgic. My most memorable Christmases are those I spent as a kid. The holiday season has always seemed magical to me and it was even more so when I was a child. There were many years when I received a memorable gift that had a lasting impact on my life – my first Barbie doll, my first record player (complete with Beatles records), my first transistor radio (with ear phones so my parents didn’t know I was listening all night), and the list goes on.

As an adult, it takes a little more than a Barbie doll to rock my world, but I’m excited to report that I’m finally getting a new car this year. It was difficult to think about parting with my reliable old Mercedes, but when someone pointed out to me that I have readers younger than my car, I decided it was time! Also, our family is gathering in our new home this year, and we all seem to be embarking on exciting new phases and of life, for which I am thankful.

Anyway, the holiday season is such a hopeful time of positive new beginnings, and even though I’m not a child anymore, I feel like one at this time of year.  This quote from Agatha Christie seems to sum it all up, “Suddenly you find … that a whole new life has opened before you … as if a fresh sap of ideas and thoughts was rising in you.” I wish that feeling for you this holiday season and throughout the coming New Year!

As a small Christmas gift to my readers, I’ve placed the Transcender Trilogy Complete Box Set on sale from December 23 through December 26. Only $1.99 for all three Kindle books. Makes a nice gift. Tell all your friends!

Complete Box Set

Complete Box Set

 

Jaden and Gabriel by Kat Gavin

Jaden and Gabriel by Kat Gavin

Greetings readers, authors, and aspiring writers. I wanted to share with you some more fabulous art from the amazing Kat Gavin, and to list a  few of the many reasons I love writing (and reading) young adult fiction. Also, scroll down for an awesome Transcender Trilogy countdown sale!

  1. YA IS NOT JUST FOR TEENS! Okay, we didn’t need studies to tell us that adults, young and old alike, read YA, but I was surprised to find that over half of YA readers are over the age of 18. It makes sense, though—some of the most courageous, edgy, and freshest stories today are being written under the YA mantle. I just read an article entitled Against YA that made me want to scream. It suggests adults should eschew the “satisfying endings” delivered by most YA novels in favor of the “complexity of great adult literature.” http://goo.gl/dl8fIW. Seriously? I write (and read) YA precisely to escape the complexities of life. I want to be entertained—to laugh and cry and fall in love with fictional characters, and to have a break from the stresses of everyday life. Bring on the satisfying ending—it’s why I persevere to the last page!
  2. YA CAN BE WHATEVER YOU WANT IT TO BE. Do you love sci-fi, fantasy, dystopia, adventure, and romance? So do I. That’s why I toss them all into my books. In YA, it’s no-holds-barred—from light comedy to dark techno-punk and more. There’s no set formula. Typically, the protagonist is a young adult. That’s it. No steadfast rules. I spent a lot of years practicing law and always thought I’d eventually write a legal thriller. In fact I have several half-written, cheesy legal thrillers tucked inside my desk, but I lost interest because they were boring. Good YA is rarely boring. It takes its own course, and if you give it free rein, you may be surprised where it will lead you.
  3. YA DOESN’T PRETEND TO BE SOMETHING IT’S NOT. Have you ever read a book and felt the author was more worried about impressing the audience (or the critics) with how erudite (read: pretentious and snobby) she is rather than telling a good story? Ugh! A big DNF. YA doesn’t pretend to be high literature. It’s designed to engage the emotions, introduce relatable characters, and speak in a distinctive, youthful voice. We’re all familiar with what it’s like to be young and struggling with first love, difficult friends, parental love/hate relationships, and all the other messy challenges of entering adulthood. These incredibly powerful, unadulterated emotions are what inspire me most. YA gives us a vehicle for understanding how others deal with these universal issues, and after all, isn’t that what story is all about? Seeing how other people clean up the everyday messes of life.
  4. THE YA STYLE IS FUN TO READ AND WRITE. Despite the fact that there are no hard and fast rules for writing YA, I admit that most YA novels seem to have a style of writing that is unique to the category. In general, YA is character driven and plot-heavy (as opposed to stream-of-consciousness or descriptive narration), and it’s faster-paced with large chunks of dialog. The crotchety old curmudgeons out there will say that’s the problem with literature today—it caters to the fast food, instant gratification junkies in our society. Actually, I believe it’s a more modern, engaging way of writing. If the author constructs scenes and shapes characters in an easy-to-visualize manner, snappy dialog can propel the story along like a well-made movie, sweeping up the reader as it goes.
  5. YA CREATES READERS OUT OF OTHERWISE DISINTERESTED YOUNG ADULTS. Have you seen high school summer reading lists lately? Okay, they’re still overloaded with dry, fossilized, dreary tomes from another era, but they seem to be getting a little better. The more enlightened librarians and teachers of today are sprinkling some YA selections in with the timeworn classics of yesteryear, and the results are not surprising—students are discovering the joy of reading! Kudos to those farsighted souls who realize that present day teens do not relate to Lord of the Flies (believe me, I had to listen to my son’s daily complaints).

What do you like most about YA literature?

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Transcender 2 Box Set

Re-Blogged from my Orangeberry Book Tour

Vicky's StudyI’d like to share some pointers I’ve picked up since embarking on my journey as a writer:

1.      BEING AN AUTHOR IS AS MUCH ABOUT MARKETING AS IT IS ABOUT WRITING.

“That can’t be!” you cry. But alas, it’s true. Writing the book is the easy part. Whether you’re and indie or traditionally published author, expect to spend a large chunk of time marketing your books. You’ll find many aspects of it can be fun. Accept it as part of the process and enjoy!

 2.      YOU NEED AN AUTHOR PLATFORM.

An “Author Platform” is simply your internet presence, your visible “brand.” It’s what readers will find if they Google you, and it’s an efficient way to develop a loyal fan base. Generally, a platform consists at a minimum of a website, Facebook Fan Page, Twitter account, blog, and, optionally, accounts on LinkedIn, Pintrest, Google+, and/or Instagram. Don’t panic. It’s not as daunting as it sounds and it can be built over time.

3.      YOU MUST SHOW UP FOR WORK.

The good news: being a writer is great fun and there’s no dress code! The bad news: you actually have to do the work. Make a schedule and try to write at the same time and for several hours each day. Don’t answer the phone, check your email, or raid the refrigerator. You’ll be amazed at how much you get done.

4.      YOU WILL VISIT THE PIT OF DESPAIR.

It’s unavoidable. Every writer experiences bouts of self-doubt every now and again and for no apparent reason. It’s an occupational hazard like black lung disease (only worse). The best way to handle it is to recognize it’s temporary. Focus on your accomplishments, read a piece of amazing writing, polish the chapters you’ve already written, call a friend who can be trusted to talk you off the ledge. Just relax until it passes.

5.      READING IS AS IMPORTANT AS WRITING.

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” – Stephen King. I find reading invaluable for three reasons: it keeps me current in my genre; it keeps my writing sharp; and it’s a relaxing break from writing. Actually, I feel like I’m still working whenever I’m reading a good book, because I’m observing another author’s style, plot development, character growth, etc.

6.      NO MATTER HOW GREAT YOUR WRITING, EXPECT TO GET DISSED.

They say you’re not a real writer until your first bad review. Regardless, it stings like hell. Learning to shrug off a bad review is essential to surviving in this industry. Maybe the reviewer just didn’t understand your book, or didn’t really read it. Sometimes, though, the reviewer has a valid point, in which case we need to take our medicine, no matter how foul tasting, and try to benefit from it. My recommendation: grow some Rhino skin.

7.      IT’S OKAY TO SHOVEL CRAP AS LONG AS YOU CLEAN IT UP LATER.

The best advice I ever received as a writer is: “Do whatever it takes to get that first draft completed.” Don’t worry about how inane or ugly it is. You can fix it later. It goes against our perfectionist tendencies, but it really works.

8.      WRITING IS A LIFE-LONG HONING OF THE CRAFT.

I’m constantly amazed at how much I learn every day just by reading other writers’ blogs, participating in author forums, or listening to readers. Remember, even after you fearlessly claim the title “Writer,” there’s always room for improvement.

9.      AN EXTENSIVE VOCABULARY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN KNOWLEDGE OF GRAMMAR.

Vocabulary and grammar are both important to writing, but rules of grammar are broken more often than they’re observed in novel writing, especially where dialogue is concerned. I do little things every day to expand my vocabulary. Grammar I leave to the editors.

10.  EVEN ON ITS WORST DAY, WRITING IS MUCH MORE FUN THAN PRACTICING LAW.

Enough said!

About


I’m the author of the Transcender Trilogy, TRANSCENDER: First-Timer, STREAMING STARS, and the upcoming ILLLUMINOSITY, which blends science-fiction, fantasy, and romance in an exciting cross-dimensional adventure.

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