Exciting News This Week!

Happy Friday!

What a crazy week this has been.

A few weeks ago my hometown newspaper interviewed me about my book. I didn’t see an article right away, so I figured they’d decided not to run it. Then, last night I saw it pop up. From a Writer’s Fantasy to an Author’s Reality

I was so excited to see the article, and then I discovered that I got a whole page feature.

1796957_10153926092550077_139378399_oWhen I was being interviewed I was asked what it’s like to see my book out there and get such wonderful reviews. The first thing that came to mind was something Therin Knite wrote to me a couple of months ago: It’s a process of disbelief.

And it really is. Everything that happens along the way, from the first draft to the cover proof to the actual book in my hands had been a series of moments that don’t feel real.

After I posted the article, Anne Rice shared it on her Facebook page. That was pretty amazing!

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And this morning I woke up to find The Darkness of Light ranked #14 in mythology and #96 in Historical Fantasy on Amazon

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Pretty crazy, eh?

I’m really grateful for the support from my community and fellow authors. Every step of the way still feels unreal.

Anyway, I’d better get back to the revisions on The Embers of Light! More details on that one coming soon!

 

How 12 Different Authors Write a First Draft.

I have an AMAZING post for you today! Since there was such a huge response to my “How Did You Write a Book” post, I started to wonder how my experience differs from other writers. I was lucky enough to pick the brains of some incredible authors to find out how they write their first drafts. Writing a first draft is the first and MOST important step to becoming a published author and it can also the hardest.

The questions each author was asked:

  1. How long does it take you to write a first draft?
  2. What does your first draft writing process look like?
  3. What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

The authors answering these burning questions are: Lane Heymont, Becket, Kristen Strassel, Summer Wier, Brenda Drake, Greg Wilkey, Jamie Grey, Melody Winter, Kat Ellis, Julie Hutchings, Mark Mathews and Louise D. Gornall.

They come from different backgrounds, write in different genres, and as you will see, have their own unique way of approaching a first draft; no two ways are the same. So whether you’re just trying to finish your first novel, or you’re a seasoned author crying coffee-streaked tears over your latest manuscript, remember—it’s different for everyone.

Lane Heymont

@LaneHeymont

 Lane

Lane is a literary assistant at The Seymour agency. He is also the author of The Freedman and the Pharaoh’s Staff published by Sunbury Press.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

Writing a first draft, for me, is always a unique experience. Depending on the book and the amount of research needed to portray the world as realistic as possible a first draft could take me from two months to six months.

What does your first draft writing process look like?

I didn’t outline my first book and overall found it to be a gigantic pain in the rear end. Not to mention it took longer to write than I’d like to admit. So, after that experience I outlined everything from character appearance to minute conversations. It worked well for me, and my second book was done in two months. Amazing, really. As for research, I don’t usually do any until I actually start writing. I find it easier to research something once I get to the point where I need to know, and then I dive into my dozens of books (already bought) to answer even the smallest question.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

It’s funny that I struggled to answer this question. I thought about it for a long time, and then finally decided. ADD. I swear I have it, because I write for a few hours, and then start thinking how the sunlight glistens off the street outside my office window. I sit there for twenty minutes, thinking about those pine trees out there and how funny my Maltese looks as he stares at the same tree. You can see even now I’m rambling on, thus my stumbling block. How do I overcome it? Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. I recently discovered Starbucks’ blonde brew, which is hyper-loaded with caffeine. That sets me straight for hours. Also, if Starbucks would like me to promote them I would gladly do so. *smiles wickedly*

Becket

@iBecket

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Becket is the personal assistant to international bestselling author Anne Rice. Becket is also the indie-author of the popular YA series, The Blood Vivicanti, and his children’s book series, Key the Steampunk Vampire Girl.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

The length of time it takes to write the first draft of my novels depends on two goals: (1) a long-term word count goal, and (2) a short-term word count goal.

My long-term word count goal is the length that I would like the book to be by the end of the first draft. That word count always changes when the novel is finally finished. But by the end of my first draft, I make it my long-term goal to write a set amount of words.

My short-term word count goal is how many words I would like to write in a day. This can vary from day-to-day, sometimes I hit the mark on the head, sometimes I’m shy of it, and sometimes I write twice as much as I set out. But as long as I can come close to achieving my short-term word count goal, then I come even nearer to achieving my long-term word count goal.

I must stress that these two goals must be realistic so that they can be achievable. For instance, if I set out to write my own version of In Search of Lost Time in six months, while also writing 10,000 words a day, then I’ve set two highly unrealistic goals for myself. I must set a long term word count goal that I know I can achieve while at the same time also setting a short-term word count goal. Once these are set, then I start writing.

So to answer the question: If my long-term goal is 30,000 words, and my short-term goal is 1000 words a day, I would write the first draft in a month’s time. This happens often, and usually I’m finished writing a first draft of that length before 30 days.

What does your first draft writing process look like?

Before I set my two goals – long term and short term – I usually have an idea for a novel.  Once I know what I want to write – whether it is a short story, a novella, or a novel – then I set my two goals.

To set my long-term word count goal, I look at novels that I like, and that are similar to the idea I’m planning to write. For instance, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is roughly 25,000 words; and the word count for James and the Giant Peach is similar. If I am planning to write a children’s story, I make the long-term goal of my first draft similar to the word count of those two stories.

To set my short-term goal, I base it on my daily ability to write a set amount of words. To do that, I must know myself, what I’m capable and incapable of in any situation, whether I’m feeling well or ill.

For a first time writer, it might be best to set a simple goal. Try writing 100 words a day; see where that takes you. If you can write more, do it. If you need to write fewer words, do that too, and without shame, because writing is an exercise; and the muscles for writing – typing, thinking, and trusting yourself – need to be built up too.

Once I set my two goals, I start writing the story every day according to my short-term goal so that my long-term goal can be achieved.

Lastly, I write my first draft organically. I know roughly where I want the story to go and I know who my characters are because I’ll take the time to write little histories of each. Then I let things happen on the page that entertain me because (and I’ll explain this further in my response to the next question) the first draft is for me; it is for no one else. I write the first draft, and let it flow from me naturally, letting the characters do and say things that I want them to do and say, things that entertain me, every word, sentence, every scene.

If I am bored writing the first draft, then there’s no point in writing. If there are holes in the story and mistakes on the page, that’s all right – I let it happen. I let my first draft be as wild and sloppy as I like. It will get cleaned up, disciplined, and intelligible to others when I edit the story in subsequent drafts.

The whole point is to write, have fun, and meet my goals every day because I want to do what I love and love what I do.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

The main threat to every first draft is that menacing question: “What will people think of my novel, or this scene, or this character?” Asking such a question in the first draft is the undermining of the whole enterprise. The novel will never get written if I allow this question to pester me. Naturally it will arise. However, I put this question out of my head by telling myself the same mantra, it never fails: “This first draft is for you, and you alone, and no one else is going to read it.”

You see, the whole purpose of a first draft is not for someone else to see what I’m doing, but for me to see where I’m going, what I’m saying, and how I’m expressing my idea(s) in the novel.  So I must have and maintain the discipline not to show my first draft to anyone. It won’t make sense to them, especially if the first draft is unfinished.

The purpose of all subsequent drafts is to refine my story, discipline the characters, edit out things that do not help the narrative, and make it an easy and enjoyable read for my readers as well as myself.

Kristen Strassel

@KristenStrassel

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Kristen is the author of the steamy vampire romance novel Because The Night, its YA prequel, Seasons in the Sun, and the soon to be released Night Moves, published by Forward Literary.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

I try to get ‘er done in no more than 3 months. With the book I’m currently working on, I’m trying to trim that down to 2. It’s tough.

What does your first draft writing process look like?

For my more recent projects, I’ve had an idea in my head that won’t leave me alone. I write out a rough synopsis, and work on my characters. When the story is speaking to me, I just write whatever it tells me to. Then, I make a list of things that need to happen, or problems that need to be solved. I let the characters drive the story, so it doesn’t always go where I intended for it to. But that’s the fun of it!

For past books, I pulled heavily from life experience, so I didn’t have to do a ton of research. Now I’m branching out, and I tend to research mid draft. That way I can stay specific to what I need, or else I’ll be researching forever.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

Sometimes I feel like I’ve written myself into a corner, so I’ll have to go back and zig where I had previously zagged to get out of it. Also, making the characters come alive in the first draft is a challenge. We’re just getting to know each other, so I don’t always have a good feel for them.

Summer Wier

@SummerWier

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Three of Summer’s short stories are soon to appear in a Grimm’s Fairy Tale anthology by Reuts Publishing, and her YA sci-fi manuscript The Shadow of Light is currently making the query rounds.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

This was kind of a tricky question to answer since I don’t get uninterrupted writing time very often. I work from home and my clients are in different time zones, so some days I’m taking calls, sorting through emails, and putting out fires from the minute I wake up until I go to bed. There are also different times of year that allow me to write more than others (April and May are my most productive writing months because tax season is over and my children are still in school).  I utilize nights and weekends as much as possible, without totally ignoring my family, but have yet to nail down a tried and true schedule.  That being said, I can complete a first draft in about three months.

What does your first draft writing process look like?

Chaos. Pure chaos. Sometimes I’m a pantser, sometimes I’m a plotter. When I have an idea, I just start writing, and not necessarily at the beginning.  As I mentioned above, sometimes my day is filled with interruptions, but I keep mulling that idea over in my head. Expanding it. Developing it. As I’m doing other things, ideas come to me and I email them to myself.  When I sit down to write, it’s easier to move forward because I’ve already worked the scene out in my head.

With the MS I just finished, I started with one idea and then did a complete 180 after seeing a NASA YouTube video. Incorporating its elements into my MS required a lot of research because I wanted to be as accurate as possible so I could warp the idea in a very realistic way. Even after I worked the science into my story, I still researched frequently as I was writing descriptions for the world I created.

I don’t do much revising while I’m creating a first draft. I’m a picky writer. I’m a slow writer. I sit, think, and work on each sentence as I go. I’m a little OCD, so I can’t just throw word vomit on a page and move on. It drives me nuts.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

Anyone that knows me even a little bit knows that WORD COUNTS will be the death of me. I can thank my business degree for teaching how to organize data and list facts. Clear. Concise. Short, sweet and to the point.  Sure, I know how to spruce things up a bit, paint a pretty picture with flowery words and heavenly scents, but I always end up on the low side of the count. I recently tried my hand at short stories, and even then, I really had to push myself to hit a 2,000 word goal. Now that’s not all bad.  It’s my style. It makes me, well me.  And thankfully, I have some amazing CPs and a rocking DE that work with me to beef up sparse areas. More than anything, I think I psych myself out about it. It’s this thing that hangs over me, traps me, inhibits me. Every page I write, every chapter I finish brings a huge sense of accomplishment.  Because holy crap, I made more words.  Going forward, I’m trying to ignore it. Write what I write, knowing that I can go back and add to it. Spruce my story up a bit. And come out with something pretty darn awesome.

Brenda Drake

@BrendaDrake

Brenda Drake Author Photo1

Brenda Drake is the well known creator of the twitter pitch wars and contests. She is also the YA author of Library Jumpers, coming 2014.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

I’m such a slow reader and writer. It takes me about six weeks to get a draft done. I’m not a messy draft writer. I kind of edit as I go along. I can’t jump around and do other things. Once I start a draft, I can’t stop until I get to the end. It’s too hard for me to stop, doing something else, then return to the draft. This goes with my personality in other things, as well. If I start to paint the house, I don’t rest until it’s finished.

What does your first draft writing process look like?

I do a plot graph and work from it. While I’m drafting, I will stop to research things that need to be accurate for the story. I usually have character descriptions to work from for each character, except when new ones invite themselves into the story while I’m drafting, then I’ll sketch them quickly and move on. I do a lot of research of the setting for the book upfront, but everything else happens when I get to something I must research. Setting is important to me, it really gets me into the story, which I have to be careful to not write in too many details. I love to use fun and unique places, like beautiful libraries, for my settings.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

I think just making time to write. I do have more time than others, since I’m a stay-at-home mom with kids that are basically ghosts, but I have the contests and other things pulling me from my goals. So I have to say no to things I’d love to do, but I can do once I’m done. I tend to want to do all the things, so I have to stop myself and put the writing first.

Greg Wilkey

@GWilkey

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Greg is the YA indie-author behind the very popular Mortimer Drake series.

How long does it take you to write your first draft?

The first draft takes me about 6 months if I stick to my schedule. If I get distracted or too busy, it can take longer.

What does your first draft writing process look like?

I outline and map out certain scenes that I want to happen. I spend a lot of time doing research. I love the research. I can get lost in that step if I am not careful. I do not map out the entire book. I only decide on the beginning and the end. I do not revise until the whole draft is finished. Then I go back and flesh it out. I have learned over the years that I just have to get the story out of my head and onto the page. Once that’s finished, I can really work some magic.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

I want to stop and edit and revise as I go. I also have to stick to a schedule due to my lack of writing time. I really have to discipline myself to stay on my schedule or else the writing won’t happen.

Jamie Grey

@JamieGrey

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Jamie is the indie-author behind Ultraviolet Catastrophe and her soon to be released NA novel The Star Thief.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

Most of my first drafts take 4-6 weeks. I’m a huge fan of fast drafting so I try to get a first draft down as quickly as possible. It may be a mess, but at least it’s something to start with!

What does your first draft writing process look like?

For a first draft, I’ll start out with a rough outline or beat sheet so I have a roadmap of what’s going to happen. If I can give my subconscious a starting point, it fills in the gaps for me most of the time as I write. Usually a first draft for me is just getting it down, so I leave all research until after it’s finished, unless it’s absolutely necessary. That means I leave a lot of notes behind that will say “insert cool sciencey-stuff here.” I also start out with a few basic character names, but as new characters come up, I don’t worry about stopping to find the perfect name and just leave myself a note for later. I love names and I could get lost for hours searching for the perfect one! As for revising, usually I don’t do any until the first draft is completely written. I’ll go back and read a few pages or a chapter from the day before to get me back on track, but I don’t let myself fix anything.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

My first draft stumbling blocks usually have to do with plot. If I find that I’m stuck or feeling like the words won’t come, I can usually trace it to a plot problem or hole, or that I’ve taken the story in the wrong direction. I those cases I’ll go back and brainstorm the plot a little more deeply, or play the what-if game with my CPs to see if can get unstuck. I also don’t get as deep as I’d like into my characters during the first draft, it’s kind of like a first date in that most of our interactions are kind of superficial, so I do a lot of work during revising to make sure I fully flesh them out.

Melody Winter

@MelodyWinter

MW summer coast

Melody has a short story soon to appear in the Grimm’s Fairy Tale Anthology by Reuts Publishing and her NA Romantic Fantasy, Sachael Dreams is making the query rounds.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

My first drafts take about 4 – 6 months. My writing time is limited to evenings when the kids have gone to bed, and Fridays. The weekend days are a no-no for me as my husband insists that I leave the laptop alone. Although, on many occasions I have scribbled down notes or ideas that come into my head. It’s a crazy place in my mind at the best of times, so like Dumbledore and his Pensieve, I get rid of the thoughts!

What does your first draft writing process look like?

When I first started writing ‘Sachael Dreams’ – my first full MS – I planned, plotted and researched for 3 months. ‘Sachael Dreams’ is the first in a series of 4, so I had to be quite thorough in my plans – writing a rough outline of each book. The books are quite intrinsically linked, so my research and how the plot unfolded had to be in place. I couldn’t have written this without any idea of where I was going.

None of this means that I’ve stuck rigidly to the original plans. I’m writing the third book at the moment, and since ‘Sachael Dreams’ isn’t published yet, I’m still able to go back and tweak areas that I feel need a bit less, or bit more, input to run smoothly with what I am writing now.

I have pictures, Wikipedia definitions printed out, links to websites, songs lists, character profiles and hand draw family trees, as well as a very subject specific category of new research books on anything to do with water or sea creatures!

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

Because I’m a planner, I tend not to have too many stumbling blocks, But if I do hit a problem it’s usually with how to get something to happen so that I can write it through my characters POV. I write in 1st person and many times there are conversations that she needs to hear, but she’d not in the scene. I’m also a nightmare for using unnecessary words, ‘dead words’, as you will probably be able to see from this post. And, even though I plan what’s going to happen, my characters frequently take over and lead me astray. Pulling them back to where I want them to be can prove difficult. If I’m ever really stuck with things I iron, with my ipod earbuds in. Music never fails to inspire me.

Kat Ellis

@el_Kat

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Kat’s debut YA novel, Blackfin Sky will be released in 2014 by Firefly Press and Running Press Kids.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

I take around 3-4 months to write a dirty first draft, and that will be something hideous, full of plot holes and missing words and typos. The kind of draft I wouldn’t show to ANYBODY.

What does your first draft writing process look like?

I am usually a serious plotter (I say ‘usually’ because there are times when I break my own rules).

Depending on the kind of story I’m writing, I might research a lot or only a little bit before I begin mapping out the story on paper. Then I get down to business and write out the details of what happens, chapter by chapter, from the start of the novel right to the end. This will normally just be a sentence or two summarising each chapter. I use this outline as a guide, and add to it and change it as I’m writing. Sometimes the plot will take a different turn than the one I’d originally planned, and that’s fine – I just revise the outline so I still have a clear idea of where I’m going.

I start a new notebook for each new manuscript, and note down anything I might want to pick up on later – a funny line of dialogue, an outline for a particular scene, a note about a character’s tics – things like that. My notebook stays with me, and is added to, right the way through the drafting and editing and polishing, until my manuscript is all shiny and ready for my beta readers.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

For me, my biggest obstacle in the first draft phase is time. I’m not the kind of writer who can steal twenty minutes here or half an hour there to write; I need a good chunk of time to be able to sit down and really get my head into drafting-mode. I work full time, so it’s not always easy to do this, and I can end up going for days without writing anything. Then the draft is harder to get back into, and I sometimes start to feel really detached from it and a bit quitty. Luckily, my stubbornness usually outweighs my quittiness, and if all else fails I take a few days off work to really get stuck into it.

Julie Hutchings

@HutchingsJulie

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Julie is the author of the dazzling vampire thriller, Running Home and its coming sequel, Running Away published by Books of the Dead Press.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

I stick to a 1000 word a day diet, giving me about 3 months to complete a first draft without getting worn out on it.

What does your first draft writing process look like?

I’m such a pantser. I outline in bits and pieces as I go along, just to remind myself what I wanted to do next. But quite honestly, I start by sitting down and free writing. I have little idea what’s going to happen at the bottom of the page, let alone the end of the book. The one thing I really work my ass of at is figuring out what the last line of the book will be. Once I know the feeling I want it to end on, the words that I want to resonate with the reader, the final thing I want my character to say, I write fast and furious. I tend to write sparsely and go back to fill in later with expansions on plotlines, character development, and extended research if necessary. I do the bare bones of research to begin with so I don’t slow myself down or get too immersed in a lot of information that I didn’t need. That’s a classic move of mine and then I’m suddenly an expert on like, 18th century pottery and the soles of Dutch clogs or something. I strictly do not revise until my second and third drafts because I never know what’s happening next, and who knows? Maybe that thing I just said will work out.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

When I don’t outline formally, the only stumbling block I happen upon is what the hell do I do now? I’ve created this whole world and I have no idea what to do with it. Getting out of that takes a lot of forms, but the only one that always works is to write through it. I may end up with CRAP. But I can edit crap. I can’t edit what doesn’t exist.

Mark Matthews

@Matthews_Mark

Mark

Mark is the author of Stray, The Jade Rabbit, and his most recent horror novel, On the Lips of Children, published by Books of the Dead Press.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

My last novel took about 8 months, but it came and went in sprints and dashes followed by long pauses of inactivity. I do my best work when obsession takes over a bit and I binge write. During these moments, I dream of my characters and write first thing in the morning and last thing before I go to sleep at night. Nothing I have ever accomplished hasn’t been done without a bit of madness involved.

What does your first draft writing process look like?

Start with characters that are a little messed up on the inside and throw life circumstances at them to squeeze the insides out.  All of my books have been from true settings. I think each setting has its own energy and flavor that seeps from the cracks that I try to soak up and put on paper.

I would love to be able to plot but I can’t. Generally, I just have scenes and characters, and let them decide. This means tons of wasted time going on tangents and dead ends and thus more rewrites. I prefer ‘mapping’ which is more visual.

I like the idea of rambling through the first draft and typing like mad, not worrying about misspelled words or messed up sentences. I just get through the story and write as much for tone and plot as for sentence structure and worry about that later. At times I even close my eyes when I type and move my head about in a rhythm similar to Stevie Wonder at the keyboard. (You are the first person I told that to.)  (I am not joking here) (I wrote that Stevie Wonder style.)

As for research, I may Google something real fast in the heat of the moment during the first draft, but I also heard a bit of advice somewhere about doing research at the end, so I literally may type “–do research for this paragraph here–” on the manuscript and move on.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

Trying to juggle writing with a life, my day job, my family, other demands. Besides that, there are the tangents I go on due to not plotting. Any final word count is probably only half of what has been written.  I figure anything you write that isn’t used is at least an exercise in writing, so even if it gets cut, it is like the fat that makes the meat juicier.  You also can’t fall in love with certain sentences and scenes in the first draft because they may need to be cut out later.

Impatience is also a big problem. I start submitting a piece in my head way before it’s done. I have to fight the urge to rush it. Especially since you need time and distance to edit. I can only reread for quality content if some time has passed. But it is very cool to forget the content of what you wrote, and then to reread it later with fresh eyes as if you were a reader seeing it for the first time.

Louise D. Gornall

@Rock_andor_Roll

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Louise is the author of the YA fantasy In Stone released by Entranced Publishing.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

Sometimes it takes me a couple of months. Sometimes it takes me that just to write a chapter. The smallest things steal my focus. Uh, a squirrel…

What does your first draft writing process look like?

So right now I’m working on a development project with Mandy Hubbard. What that means is that Mandy has outlined and plotted a story and I’m helping her to fluff it out. I’ve never worked off an outline before and it’s kind of thrown me for a loop. Because I know what’s coming, I’m finding it really difficult to take a step back and put in all the little details I know the reader needs to stay on top of what’s going on.

Right now I’m revising and drafting which I don’t normally do, but I feel safe in the knowledge that, thanks to the outline, my plot is never going to change so dramatically that my revisions will be a waste of time. That said, I’m a firm believer in nothing shapes your book like putting it away for two weeks, coming back to it and revising the crap out of it.

What’s research? I’m kidding. I’m not great at research if there’s call for it I’ll research places, but that’s about it. I like to wing it or make it up. My “research” nearly always ends up with me just looking at the pictures.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

Transition scenes. I hate them when drafting. They seem so boring and monotonous. I just want to get to the action bits. I don’t really do anything to overcome this, I just kind of push on. I know I can make transitions more fun after a couple of revisions so I just keep going. Also, character names, they kill me. Again though, just pick one and push on until it becomes natural.

I want to thank all the authors who participated in this post. Follow them on twitter to find links to their books, websites, and to get more writing tips and advice.

Follow me @TamzWrite

websizeThe Darkness of Light ~ Available Now

 

How Did You Write A Book?

I get asked this question A LOT, so I figured it was time to write a post about it.

A Bit of Background

Well, first let me say that I’m not new to writing. I would say I’ve been a writer my entire life. I’ve always written short stories and attempted to write novels. When I was 25 I started writing under the pen name, Dahlia Knight. I had a website and wrote short erotic serials. I even had a few published on a Canadian sex therapy ezine :P. I also became a freelance writer and wrote various business reviews, web content, and ad copy for a few years.

Around the same time in 2008 I started to develop these characters that just wouldn’t leave me alone. They were Mara, Malcolm, and Corbin (the main characters in The Darkness of Light). I didn’t know their story at the time, but I knew who they were and I knew what I wanted them to be. I had no frikken clue how to write a book back then. Twitter and FB were just new and writers forums were sometimes a little sketchy, so getting information was hard. I’d write a chapter and feel like it was a complete uphill battle. I’d wonder how the hell I was going to create an entire novel when I couldn’t even make the chapters flow.

I ordered dozens of books on writing and read them over and over and over. Then, in 2010, while I was still toiling away at my manuscript, my mom passed away and I instantly lost my ability to write. I still can’t say why, exactly. A month after she passed I took down Dahlia’s website and completely abandoned my manuscript for 3 years.

The Reawakening.

For the 3 years I was in writer purgatory, I was back in school studying English Lit and History. I convinced myself that I didn’t want to be a writer and that maybe I’d get my PhD one day and become a professor.

That was the plan.

But then in early 2013 I was struck by a bolt of creativity. I woke up one morning and had such a strong urge to write that I didn’t even make a coffee, I just sat down at my computer and typed out a 7,000 word first chapter (*Note: a 7,000 word chapter is WAY too long). The funny thing is that while I was writing, I felt like I was in a trance and when I finally stopped and took a breath, I realized I’d just written the beginnings of a historical novel. I guess all those years of studying history paid off and I knew then that I’d not only gotten my creativity back, but I’d also found my niche.

How Did I Write a Book?

This is where the hard work comes in. It had been years since I’d written creatively and I’d forgotten a lot of what I’d learned from the many writing books sitting dusty on my shelves. So instead of reading about writing, this time I decided to just write and not care about what was right and wrong.

  1. I got a notebook and started plotting Mara, Malcolm, and Corbin’s story. I scribbled nonsense all through that notebook. I’d plan whole chapters and then scratch them out, I’d write several endings  that never came to be. I plotted and scribbled and plotted until I had enough to keep writing chapters.
  2. Then I researched. Being that I was writing a historical novel, I wanted to have some cold, hard facts to insert as I wrote. I knew I could go back later and perfect it, but for my own peace of mind, I needed SOME information to keep going. I think researching was definitely my favorite part.
  3. Then I wrote. With new ideas fresh in my mind, I started writing. Sometimes I followed the plan, sometimes I didn’t. It wasn’t always easy getting those chapters down, but every day I knew I was getting a few steps closer to a finished manuscript. Instead of thinking of the book as a whole, I thought of the chapters as scenes or mini stories. Every chapter needed a beginning, a middle or a conflict, and an end. Thinking that way helped A LOT!
  4. I took research breaks in between writing. I have a bad short term memory and would have to go back and re-research some of the information. This wasn’t really a bad thing, though, because a lot of the time I came across new info that inspired me.
  5. I wrote until my eyes were raw. Some days I almost went blind, really. But I was so obsessed with finishing the first draft, I couldn’t stop. It was really important for me to remember NOT TO REVISE during the writing process. If I changed things, I was NOT allowed to go back and fix earlier chapters. Sometimes I’d only put a few hundred words in a chapter. I knew what the scene was, but at the time I couldn’t get it out. So I’d write the plan and move on to the next chapter.

8 Weeks Later, I Had a Finished First Draft.

That’s right. It only took 8 weeks to write the very first draft of The Darkness of Light. But let me tell you, it was a complete MESS; virtually unreadable, but I was SO damn excited that I wasn’t about to just give up there.

I Took To Twitter and Googled My Ass Off!

Now, don’t forget that I’d basically forgotten all the ins and outs of publishing that I’d learned before, so I had to refresh. I started googling things like:

  • How many words should a novel be?
  • How long should a chapter be?
  • How to get published.
  • How to find an agent.
  • New author success stories.

I learned a lot from Writers Digest and various other writing websites. Then I took to twitter and started following other writers, agents, and publishers. THIS was probably the single best resource I could have ever found. I soon discovered that the twitter writing community is SO helpful. They tweet tips, articles, info, answer questions and are generally some of the nicest people in the world! Off the top of my head, the ones who have helped and inspired me the most are:

  • Ciar Cullen
  • Leigh Anne Kopans
  • Julie Hutchings
  • Kristen Strassel
  • Jamie Grey
  • Kat Ellis
  • Jessie Devine
  • Summer Wier
  • Caitlin Greer
  • Rayne Hall
  • Nat Russo

I suggest you follow these people if you want to learn a thing or two about writing.

Then I followed agents and assistant agents. My favorite agent tweets usually come from:

  • Eric Ruben
  • Juliet Mushens
  • Pam van Hylckama
  • Terrie Wolf
  • Lane Heymont

I suggest you follow them as well.  They offer a wealth of information when it comes to querying, agenting and publishing.

I Got Back to Writing.

After I nestled into the writing community, I got back to writing and plotting. I went through my manuscript and marked it up, jotted down notes and more ideas and then I wrote the entire thing again. This was a lot of work, but it was also a lot of fun. I actually had a story to work with and the more I revised, the better it got.

When I’d finally smoothed it out enough so that it was actually readable, I started letting friends read it. I got feedback, made changes, and rewrote some more until it was actually a finished novel! It made sense, it had a beginning, middle, and end and every time I read it, I loved it!!!

Now, this is only part one of the writing process. I’ll write another post soon on my experience with querying agents, editing, and publishing. None of that is important now, because you can’t do any of that without first having a polished, finished manuscript!

So just write the damn thing!!! Who cares if it’s any good. First drafts WILL suck. They won’t make sense, they won’t flow. You HAVE to create the puzzle pieces in order to put them together. Just write and don’t stop until you have at least 150-200+ pages of SOMETHING! Worry about rules and all the rest later.

If you’ve already written a book, does your process differ from mine? Share your writing story.

GOOD LUCK!

1597401_10153715021560077_1070423782_oThe Darkness of Light ~ Available NOW through Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Sony, and Select Retailers.

Follow me @TamzWrite

http://www.Facebook.com/TheDiaChronicles

You wrote a book! And someone isn’t excited for you.

Ignore the glum post title for a moment, please.

Tomorrow is the official release day of The Darkness of Light!!! While it’s been available through most distributors for almost a month, the blog tour begins tomorrow. I’ve never done a blog tour before, so I have no idea what to expect from it, but I hope it casts enough light on my book.

Okay, now to the blog topic.

I’m sure every author can relate to this issue. There’s always that one, or maybe two people in your life who could give two shits about the fact that you wrote a book. Others are excited for you, your friends gush about how much they love it, and then that one, seemingly underwhelmed person, mentally roll their eyes when the book is brought up. They become quiet, they add nothing to the conversation, they certainly haven’t read it, they don’t share or even like your updates on FB, and they don’t care to know what you blog about (which is why I feel fine writing this post).

I’m not so sure if I’m hurt by this or just utterly confused. Okay, I’m definitely hurt, but I’m definitely confused, too. How can a person who’s so close to me not mirror my excitement when everyone else does? How can this person seem indifferent to anything and everything that has to do with my book? I don’t think it’s a jealously issue. There’s nothing to be jealous of. I didn’t strike it rich with my debut novel and I worked really, REALLY hard to write it. So it’s not like it just happened TO me, yah know? Maybe it’s an annoyance issue. Maybe this person is irritated by the fact that I have something to be happy about.

Either way, I try not to let it get to me, but it does. It casts a dark shadow of uncertainty on me. It takes away from my own excitement. I feel it. And despite their assertions that they’re happy for me, the truth is in their action and reaction.

Maybe I’m being selfish, expecting people to react a certain way. Maybe I’m being ridiculous, letting someone else effect my emotions. Maybe…

Has anyone else experienced this or am I the only one?

 

websizeTHE DARKNESS OF LIGHT ~ Available now through Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and select retailers.

@TamzWrite

http://www.facebook.com/thediachronicles

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18628472-the-darkness-of-light

 

Launch Party Success!

Happy Monday, everyone! I don’t know why, but I’m always extra positive on Mondays. My optimism today might be the result of the book launch party we had on Friday. It was amazing! We had a great turnout and sold a lot of books. It was my first time signing books, so that was weird, but I think I’ve finally mastered my signature.

Here’s how it all went down…

My friend and I scouted bookstores in town to see who would want to host a launch party. Whether you’re an indie author or a traditionally published author, bookstores LOVE hosting signings and launches. It gets people into their store to buy books! So remember that when you feel hesitant to ask a bookseller if they’ll host you.

Anyway, after scouting bookstores my friend, Libby, and I decided that a private invite-only event would better fit our needs. Then we wouldn’t have to worry about people arriving on time and we could serve alcohol…which I definitely needed! Plus, it’s a lot easier to entice people with free drinks (wink wink).  Libby has a gorgeous…I mean GORGEOUS house, and when she suggested having it there I said, YES! My friends did an amazing job at putting things together. Just look at this spread!

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And we had a little set-up where I would sign books

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Then the party was underway. People drank, ate some food….

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And once everyone was good an liquored up, they took a seat so we could talk about my book. I wish I had better pictures of that, but my husband was the photographer and he should never be given a camera…EVER. Anyway, I decided not to do a reading because I felt like my Canadian accent wouldn’t do my British characters justice. So instead I talked about the book, how I wrote it, what’s next in the series and did a Q&A. I think the Q&A was my favorite part because it gave me a good idea of what really interests people.

Then we got to signing. Some even bought 2-3 books. Others wanted me to write dirty messages in their books, which I totally did!

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The end result was a very laid back evening that didn’t stress me out too much. I find attention to be very unnerving, but this intimate type of setting was perfect for me. We sold out of books and a few of the attendees said they would bring my book to their book clubs. I’d love to do a book club talk.

After the books were signed and most of the crowd left, we spent the rest of the night just hanging out. It was a lot of fun and a great experience. I still don’t love attention. I really struggled with an entire party being about me, but when I saw how excited and supportive everyone was, even those I’d never met, my anxiety quickly went away.

Thank you to every who came out and to my friends who put it all together. I love you all.

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The Darkness of Light is out early!

This is the worst kept secret in the history of secrets, but The Darkness of Light is out early in some markets! Official Release and book tour is still scheduled for January 28th, but for now you can be in on the secret with me.  Some sites are still on pre-order.

You can get a copy of the ebook or paperback here:

Amazon.com

Amazon Kindle

Amazon UK

Amazon UK Kindle

You can get paperback and pre-order the ebook here:

Barnes and Noble

You can pre-order on Kobo

Kobo

And if you live in the Greenville SC area, you can pick up a signed copy at Fiction Addiction (1175 Woods Crossing Rd #5, Greenville, SC 29607)

1597401_10153715021560077_1070423782_o

What actor/actress would you cast for your characters?

I was asked this question for one of my blog tour interviews. I have to admit, I did stress about it a little…okay, I stressed about it A LOT! You’d think I was actually casting the damn thing.

Well, I already regret one of my choices lol. For Mara, I suggested Tamsin Egerton or Kaya Scodelario. But I was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

I’ve found the PERFECT actress to play Mara. It’s British actress Rachel Hurd-Wood. She’s the perfect age and has the perfect face. Just look at those eyes…

Rachel_Hurd-Wood_English_actress rachel-hurd-wood-1 rachel_hurd_wood_1920_1200_jun072011

Corbin is a tougher character to cast. When I was writing him, I always had Taylor Kitsch in mind, but being that he’s Canadian, I’m not so sure he can do a convincing English accent. If I come up with any better suggestions, I’ll let you know.

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Malcolm was a bit easier to cast than Corbin. I would want Aneurin Barnard. I really love Aneurin and hate making him a bad guy, but he is so the right man for the job!

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I also chose to cast Rowan. When I was writing The Darkness of Light I always imagined Joseph Fiennes in the role, but the more I think about it, I think Johnathan Rhys Meyers would also be an amazing fit. What do you think?

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Of course, this is only a dream. Not many authors get to see their books adapted into movies, and those that do often find the end result to be less than what they’d imagined. BUT, if Neil Jordan ever wants to write and direct The Darkness of Light, I might just die of shock. I don’t think anyone but him could do it justice. So if any of my readers happen to know Mr. Jordan, feel free to tell him I am in need of his brilliance! THANKS!

26 days until The Darkness of Light release! And other stuff

Happy New Year to everyone.

I am SO glad the holidays are over and I can finally get back to my routine. There’s a lot going on this month, most notably, The Darkness of Light will be released on January 28th! I can’t wait. I feel like I’ve been waiting for this forever. The eBook is already available for pre-order on Kobo, which you can purchase here The Darkness of Light

My plan over the holidays was to take a short break from writing, but when the muse calls, she cannot be ignored, so I managed to get a few more chapters written out. It’s looking like the first draft of The Shadows of Light will be done in the next few weeks. Then I can go onto revision and rewrites–my favorite part!

I wrote a blog post a few weeks ago about some people sharing earlier drafts of my manuscript. Well, over the holidays a quick slip of the tongue by someone alerted me to yet another unauthorized reader. I can’t tell you how angry this makes me, so I’ve decided that for further projects I will not be using beta-readers or share my work with anyone other than my critique partners and other writing professionals. It’s the only way I will feel secure knowing that my work is not being seen when it isn’t ready. If people want to read my work, they can read it when it’s published. I think it’s better that way. Too many people have read many different versions of my novel. Next time everyone will get to read the same version. Sorry to anyone who did the right thing and kept my work to themselves, blame the other jerks.

Anyways, I have a bunch of interviews to work on and some more writing to get to! If you haven’t yet added The Darkness of Light to goodreads, here is the link The Darkness of Light on Goodreads

And you can find my facebook page here http://www.facebook.com/thediachronicles

Thanks for reading and sharing. The countdown begins!!!!

@TamzWrite

ebook GIVEAWAY! The Darkness of Light – Advance Reader Copy

There’s a giveaway happening right now over on my facebook page Tammy Farrell, Author

Like the page, share the post, type “enter” in the comments section and BOOM! You’re entered to win a free ebook of The Darkness of Light.

The drawing will happen on Friday December 13th. It will be a lucky day for somebody! 😀

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Interview with Julie Hutchings, Author of Running Home, on writing and publishing

There’s a new word of the day–Twauther–which is twitter + author. You love it, right? I wouldn’t have come up with this gem of a word had I not had the chance to interview one half of the Undead Duo, Julie Hutchings (You better know the other half is author, Kristen Strassel).

My first encounter with Julie was on twitter. I found her on the release day of her debut paranormal/horror novel, Running Home. I bought it right away and luckily had my kindle with me while I waited hours at the DMV. I loved Julie’s book and when I tweeted her to let her know, I was blown away by just how humble and appreciative was to all of her new fans. Since then Julie has become one of my favorite writer friends. She is hysterical, witty, and has let me into her world of writing.

Julie was kind enough to answer some questions for me about her writing process, her experience as a published author and her views on chocolate equality–trust me, it’s a real thing. 🙂

Me

You used Japanese folklore in your novel. How did that come about?

I love obscure mythology, and have a black belt in a Korean and Japanese martial art mix. I’ve always wanted to go to Japan to study martial arts there. I have a bit of an obsession with the almost harshness of the Japanese language, the directness of their fighting techniques, the sparse beauty and yet incredible richness of all things Japanese. So when the Japanese death god mythology fell in my lap, I had to make it part of me and mine.

What draws you to vampires?

Immortality. I want to live forever and want everyone I love to do the same. Not to mention I just like the grim eroticism of blood.

You seem to have a very successful blog going at deadlyeverafter.com. How valuable has blogging been for you? Do you think it helps market you as an author?

Blogging has been incredibly valuable to me. Something I never expected to come of it was the friendships I’ve made there! It started last year when we did The Nightmares Before Christmas blog series where we featured writers to do a horror Christmas themed flash fiction piece, and some of my closest friends now came from that. Aside from that, it definitely helps market me as an author, but not because of all the blog views or anything, but more because people know my voice from there and either love or hate it. As you know, I have a mouth on me, and I’m my most passionate and outspoken about writing. You want a lot of swearing and abrasive opinions? Feel free to visit my blog.

How did you find your publisher and what has the traditional publishing experience been like for you?

I wrote a flash fiction story called THE THREAT (http://www.booksofthedeadpress.com/2013/04/flash-fiction-by-julie-hutchings.html?spref=tw) for the Books of the Dead blog, and James Roy Daley piped up and said, “Hey, don’t you have a full length novel?” I was querying agents and hating my life at the time, and though I knew Books of the Dead had an open submission at the time, I never thought Roy would want RUNNING HOME. I didn’t think it was something he would be into, but he grabbed it up!

Traditional publishing is what I always wanted to do, it was my Plan A. So, to get to do it at all, with my first book, is still such an Easter basket of happiness for me, that the roadbumps along the way don’t put me down for more than a minute. Every time some little thing goes awry, I say “yay, look at my bookie!” and I’m happy as hell again. Also, I really want to focus on the creative end of writing, and have no idea how to do the other stuff. So I’m endlessly thankful to have someone to handle that for me. Roy’s cool to deal with for me because we can say just about anything to each other, and we’re fine. It’s like when two men get in an argument and then punch each other in a parking lot. All’s well in the world.

Many of us twauthers (See what I did there, twitter + authors) follow, Eric Ruben, who has recently become your agent. Congratulations, by the way. How did that partnership come about?

Eric and I were just friendly from the start, and tweeted for a long time. I guess I have a pattern, because I didn’t think he would want my work either, for some reason. But one day I tweeted that I’d just written the grossest thing I ever wrote, a chapter in THE HARPY. His client and my wonderful friend, Jessie Devine, piped up asking to read it, and then another friend, so I sent it to them to read, and they started chatting about it on Twitter. Eric wanted to know what all the fuss was about, so he read it, too, and not long after that we were talking contracts and I was having a heart attack. I also had met him at a Mystery Writers meeting that I crashed with Kristen Strassel, specifically to meet him because we loved him so much. It helps to make personal connections, as long as they’re genuine. Friends first, business partners next.

I’ve seen you refer to Eric as a chocolate racist because he dislikes white chocolate. Are you a proponent of chocolate equality?

I am a total proponent of chocolate equality. I’ve been known to give up my seat on the bus for white chocolate, and even to have white chocolate friends. Don’t get me wrong—if white chocolate didn’t taste as frigging fantastic as it does, I would turn up my nose at it in a second.

What is the writing process like for you? Are you a planner or a pantser?

Total pantser. I probably couldn’t stick to an outline if I was glued to it. For my last two books, I just knew I needed to write something, and literally sat down and started writing, just to see what fell out. Then THE ANIMAL, which has yet to be even shown to Eric was born, and THE HARPY not long after. RUNNING HOME was my first, and the sequel I’m working on, RUNNING AWAY, was actually the end of that book originally, so the process is a little different with them. I devote myself to writing every day, with the rare break of a few days when I need it. I treat it like a job, there’s no waiting for some muse to show up. Those books work for me, and I write like the world will end if I don’t.

Many new writers get caught up in trying to perfect their first draft. But seasoned authors know that the first draft is almost always a complete mess. What does your first draft look like and how many drafts do you usually write before you consider your novel finished?

My first drafts are different than a lot of other writers’ I think. Rather than write to get a bunch of words on the page, I write sparingly, and go back and embellish what I think needs more. My first drafts tend to be short rather than long, so I don’t have too much to cut. I end up planning out my drafts, so that I do one edit for character voice—does this sound like my characters, or do they sound all alike? Do they have distinctive voices? I’ll do separate drafts for details—additional research, doing my first draft with basic research. I’ll do a half dozen different drafts just to make sure I can concentrate on one aspect of the book at a time. Then, I feel good about it. I don’t love having a complete mess of a book, it just doesn’t feel right to me. I want as much order as I can have to it. The book works for me, I don’t let it overrun me.

Do you use critique partners or writing groups?

I don’t really have a writing group, unless you count #writeclub on Twitter, but I do have actually just a couple of critique partners that I rely on with every novel. They get me and my intention entirely, and so I trust their feedback implicitly. But I sort of listen to myself first. Big fan of trusting my instincts.

Do you have any strange writing habits?

I think writing the stuff I write is a strange enough habit, but probably the weirdest thing about me is that when I start a book I need to have a new big, weird binder, and folders in it, and notebooks I can take out and carry with me everywhere I go, and new post-its, and special pen pockets, and ripped out magazine pages for inspiration, and color swatches, and stickers…..I mean, it is readable only by me. It’s nuts, and I love it. I’ll send you a pic of RUNNING AWAY’s notebook. It’s madness.

How do you find the time to write with little ones running around?

I get up with 5am Writer’s Club on Twitter an awful lot to have those few hours before they awake to myself. And I write all day. I carry a notebook and jot notes waiting in lines. I’m lucky that my three year old is really independent, and wants to discover things on his own, and he loves to hang out with me on the couch and watch movies, so it gives me a lot of time while my oldest is at school.

What has been the most exciting moment in your writing career thus far?

Oh, jeez. There’s so many. That first review I received from Opening Line Literary Zine, with the cover of RUNNING HOME’s reveal….that was surreal. The kind of thing you dream about. Signing a contract is insane. A ridiculous feeling. And I cried when my paperbacks showed up in the mail. Every bit of it is exciting. I love writing so much, it excites me that people are interested in what makes me so happy.

What has been the most challenging?

Without a doubt, the financial burden of me not working a full time job. Emotionally I feel better than I ever have. I’m happier than I’ve ever been, home with my children and husband, letting my creativity lead the way. I love helping other writers, inspiring people to plug away. And yes, there can be an emotional toll sometimes from writing, but I feel more myself now than I ever have in my life. Now, if only I could buy some clothes, that would be great.

I’d like to ask you a question I ask many authors. What are your thoughts on “The Rules of Writing” – those handy and sometimes frustrating little bits of wisdom that seem to bemoan the writing techniques that we see famous authors use all the time.

What are your thoughts on:

Adverbs: I was a huge adverb offender when I started writing, and didn’t know it was a no-no. Now I write pretty sparingly, and have to say, I’m not a huge adverb fan myself. Less is more.

Using anything other than “said” to carry dialogue: Only occasional. It’s not about how clever you can make your damn word, it’s how intriguing the words are that you’re having your characters use. Don’t make it all flowery and stupid.  

Avoiding detailed descriptions of people, places or things: Again, I was a big offender. Not of overdescribing people and things, but places. I wanted so much to convey how places felt to me. The book store, Birch Tree Books, in particular, in RUNNING HOME. God, I fought tooth and nail about describing that place in my opening chapter for four pages, and didn’t want to listen to anyone when I was told over and over not to do it. It’s one thing I eventually caved on, and now I know why it’s so distracting.

Character thought exposition “He knew”, “She thought” etc…: I’m cool with it. Though I try not to do it too much, it happens, and I try to be aware of doing it when it’s needed, not just because I’m too lazy to find another way.   

Who or what do you look to for inspiration when writing?

Movies. I draw a lot from movies. And I’m a firm believer in finding inspiration in new things and places all the time, or else you can’t create something new and better. You have to push it.

I know you’re working on Running Away, the sequel to Running Home. How many more books do you have planned for the series?

Three of these bad boys. CRAWLING BACK is the end of the trilogy.

What wisdom have you gained as a published author that you would like to impart to those just starting out?

It may sound cheesy, but be thankful for every single sale, review, retweet of links, pictures of the book people send when it shows up in the mail. I have high hopes for my work, but it starts with those individuals who get so excited when they reach that one spot in chapter 45, and the ones who squeal when it shows up on their doorstep. It isn’t about amazon rankings, or making a bunch of money, or even how perfect the book looks, it’s about having done it at all. I choke up every time I hold the damn book in my hand. Be grateful for it, and never forget that no matter what little publishing bumps you run in to, and you will, that you did it. It happened.

What else can we expect from Julie Hutchings in 2014?

Ooooh, lots! There’s another novel of mine kicking around the publishing world called THE HARPY, and mother of Christ, I love that book. I can’t wait for it to meet the world. I’ll soon be working on submitting a novel I’ve been sitting on, THE ANIMAL, too, and that’s unlike anything I’ve ever written. I’ll let you in on my secret, too…. I have a YA dying to make it onto paper, too. It already has its own crazy notebook. Haha. Aside from that, lots of blogs on www.deadlyeverafter.com and my new side project blog with a handful of other writers, The Midnight Type. I’ll get myself into a wild chasm of mayhem that puts my sanity at jeopardy and probably write some new monstrosity I haven’t dreamed up yet, too. Just the way I like it.

Running Home - CoverRunning Home is available in ebook and paperback http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EEG42IM/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_8nmNsb0BH8SBN

And you can find Julie on twitter @HutchingsJulie

Or you can follow her blog at http://www.deadlyeverafter.com