The Benefits of an Active Shelf Life

I’m a reader. Not just a reader. I’m a “must read the list of suggested books from my local library or online resource” type reader. Don’t try to limit me to only one genre. I’m interested in everything from books about local history to ghost stories to modern thrillers to classic tales. I will, on occasion, explore the works of foreign authors from diverse backgrounds. Why do I read everything I can get my little mittens on? I’m a reader, because I’m a learner.

The Benefits of Being a Reader:

© Konstantin Yuganov – Stock.Adobe.Com

  • Reading is exercise for the mind – Your brain needs fresh knowledge to grow. Don’t stop learning just because you become an “adult.” Growth is essential for everyone regardless of age.
  • A well-read brain is a healthy brain, especially as we age – Staying active is important for a healthy body. Your brain ages too. Learning new things can help keep your mind sharp.
  • Reading promotes imagination – Movies, TV and video games are entertaining, but someone else is doing the imagining for you. Reading a book offers plots and descriptions of the author’s story scenes, but it’s your imagination building the world as you see it. You take away inspiration, encouragement and knowledge gleaned from what you’ve seen in your mind’s eye.

Read Often. Learn as Much as Possible. Share Your Knowledge.

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Be Positive. Be Happy. Be Well

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Wishing You a Wonderful Thanksgiving Week

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Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go…or to a beach in Mexico. One of my friends is taking his family there this week. I was not invited. That’s cool. We’re good…sniff.  All kidding aside, there is no place I’d rather be than in Colorado during the holidays. Skiing in the mountains. Festivals and performing arts in town. We know how to have fun here.

Whether you’re traveling to visit the special folks in your life OR you’re hanging out at home, have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Be Safe!

Coming in December

Each Fall I put out a newsletter promoting new releases by my talented author friends. I’m running very late this year (hanging head in shame). Join my friends and I next month here on the blog. There will be books from several different genres. Each of them are excellent stocking stuffers for those book lovers in your life.

TTFN

C.R. Richards

Why I have an I Love Me Wall and so should you

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If you’ve ever worked in a cubical jungle, you’ve probably heard the term “I Love Me Wall.” We’ve all had those over achieving co-workers who seem to consistently win employee awards. They proudly display them on the walls of their cubicle. Sometimes they pack their books in boxes and replace them on their book shelves with awards. There are those folks who really don’t deserve the awards they receive, but I digress.

Other employees win just as many awards. Rather than displaying their hard earned achievements, they stick them in a drawer and titter at the various “I Love Me Walls” in the office. I don’t know why we (yep. I was a drawer kind of gal.) don’t crow along with the others about our achievements. Is it modesty? Could it be we feel as though we really don’t deserve the kudos? I can’t speak for everyone, but I am an Introvert. I don’t like to be the center of attention.  Even in my role as Program Manager, I don’t like to be the shining light at center stage. I just want to come in, do what I do and leave. In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you back then I didn’t feel I earned those awards. Just doin’ my job, Ma’am.

My attitude began to change when I published my first book. It was hard work! I’d dreamed about being published my entire life. My book deserved a special place on the book shelf in my home office. I put it in a prominent place and look at it when I’m struggling with a new story. Not going to lie to you, I also look at “My Shelf” when I have bad days on the Program Management gig too.

I had a huge mental shift recently when I released my first Indie Pub book. Talk about high risk/ high stress. It was a turning point in my career. My attitude about my achievements shifted again. What I’d done took talent and a lot of brass balls. The day I released Lost Man’s Parish was the day I truly respected myself as a professional writer. It stopped being an unattainable dream and became my long term professional goal. That was the day I put up an “I Love Me Wall” in my family room.

Sound crazy?! Think about it. If you aren’t your loudest cheerleader, then who will cheer for you? Be proud of publishing that book, earning that masters degree, getting that dream job, [fill in the blank]! Display the sheet music you’ve written or the certificate you earned from technical college. Each day is a battle as we fight self-doubt. Your past achievements are reminders that you can make your dreams come true, because you’ve done it before.

Crow on! I sure plan to crow, because getting that box of brand new shiny books never gets old.

 

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The Many Iterations of Jin

Here’s a peek at the creative process of a book’s becoming…uh, whatever it’s supposed to become.

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I started Pariah during a time when I was still trying to find my voice as a writer. I knew I loved writing Fantasy, but I’d also successfully tried my hand at Romance. During my first draft attempt, I decided to try making the story all about the romance between the two main characters, Jin and Gracie. By the time I reached the end of Act I, I knew the story would be a flop. Nope. It wasn’t a romance novel.

Take Two: Gracie’s character was pretty solid from day one. Jin was the problem. Who was this guy? I knew his mother was English and his father was of Chinese descent living in Hong Kong. I also knew Jin was a bad ass martial artist. Making him a Chinese spy on the run seemed to be the next logical conclusion. I sat down, rolled up my sleeves and began rewriting Act I. Then my mind began to wander. Some of the amazing things I wanted this character to perform would be so much cooler if he could actually do magic. Hmmmm

Take Three: It was time to decide who I was as a writer. Winning a 2014 EPPIE for Best Fantasy for my novel, Phantom Harvest, answered my career question better than anything else could. Pariah would be a fantasy as well. Everything started falling into place for Jin and for the book after I made my decision. I finished the full manuscript in a few months and was ready to start getting critique feedback.

The Tweak: It is essential to get feedback from people you trust at this stage in the writing process. However, don’t underestimate the insight you can glean from strangers in the publishing profession. They don’t know you. They don’t have to worry about hurting your feelings. You’ll get unfiltered honesty. I was fortunate to have a well known author I respect give me some great advice about Jin. She told me his personality was unrealistic. I’m paraphrasing her words, but essentially the gist was she found Jin to be an arrogant unlikable ass. Ha! I was laughing then and I’m still laughing. She was absolutely right. I went back and spent time with Jin to discover his true motivations and heart. I’m happy to report his personality has changed for the better. If you find him to still be an ass, I hope he is a likable ass.

What I hope you get from this post: Don’t be afraid to try several approaches to a story or character. Eventually, you’ll find the true path and hopefully learn some things about yourself.

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Third Time’s the Charm Factor

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This week I’ve released my third book, Pariah, for pre-order. Something amazing happened. My other books started getting some love again on the distributor sites and Goodreads. Could this be the “Third Time’s the Charm” factor? Or happy coincidence?

Let’s take a look at the evidence:

  • My small press publisher was bought out by a New York firm in July. The new publisher could have started a promotional campaign that I am not aware of. I seriously doubt it though. My book, Phantom Harvest, isn’t up on their site yet.
  • I’m advertising Phantom Harvest and Lost Man’s Parish on Goodreads. It seems as though the ads are suddenly getting more hits this week on both books. Not sure Goodreads is the reason though, because I’ve been advertising with them since March without much success.
  • I listed Lost Man’s Parish as FREE to celebrate my upcoming release of Pariah. The downloads really ramped up.

My conclusion? I have no idea whether one or all of these contributed to the renewed interest in my earlier books. Perhaps the third time really is the charm when building reader confidence? The more quality books an author releases may equate – in a reader’s mind – to the level of commitment the author has to their craft and their readers. Whatever the reason, I’m grateful.  Here’s hoping this positive trend continues. <fingers crossed>

Final Thoughts: As I sat on my back porch obsessing about this post, I realized I should draw on my own experiences as a reader. Thinking back on my favorite authors, I remember some of them were on Book Four by the time I discovered their series. Take heart! Before a reader can find you and become a dedicated fan of your work, you have to believe in you first. Don’t give up after one book. Keep going. You were given that story and only you can tell it.

The Juggling Act

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[Image from Dreamstime.com]

I’ve reached that glorious state in my writing career when I have more than one literary project active at the same time. It’s exciting and empowering. My motivation level is way up on the “Can’t wait to share with my readers” scale. It’s a very positive situation to be in, BUT there is a downside. How can I get everything done on time without going crazy?

The Projects:

Pariah

My 104k word urban fantasy, Pariah, is back from my editor.  It’s almost impossible to see the white of the page through all the red ink. Seriously, she did a fantastic job. Who knew I was clumsily misplacing those slippery modifiers?

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My target goal is for an early Fall release. This is an Indie Pub effort, so I have to coordinate with book formatters, designers, distributors, printers and book tour folks. They are all waiting for me to complete my final edits. No pressure!

Son of Lions

If you’ve read my blog in the past, you’ll have heard laments of my ruined epic fantasy. Poor advice and a lack of self-trust sunk my rubber ducky on the first manuscript. Fast forward six years to find me rolling up my sleeves for another go.  I love this story. It’s very near to my heart. Frankly, I’ve invested too much time and emotion into this nine book series (all in draft form) to abandon it to frustration.

My target goal: Complete a workable draft of the first book to send for review by Spring 2015.

Marketing: The never ending project

This is ongoing. It’s never a good idea to completely ignore your published book babies.

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Phantom Harvest and Lost Man’s Parish

The Plan:

I took a revisions workshop at the last Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference. It was given by Colorado Author, Cindi Meyers (Check out her books). In my opinion, Cindi is the foremost expert on juggling literary projects.  Okay, she may have a little competition from James Patterson.  Visit her site and you will see how many wonderful books she has out there. During the class, Cindi described how she managed her time editing one book and writing the draft of another – sometimes ON THE SAME DAY. Respect!

In my day job as a program manager, I’m expected to juggle many projects, tasks and pieces of information each day. Unfortunately, I have not been able to master this ability with my own creative projects. YET. I’m not going to beat myself up. Instead, I’m going to play to my strengths.  One skill set I’ve developed is the ability to completely focus on a project. No distractions. How do I use this to my advantage when I’m juggling several literary projects? Planning. My brain has to focus on one story at a time. I determine how long a task (Final edits on Pariah for instance) will take me. I schedule this for “X” amount of days/weeks/months. When I know the date I’ll finish, I schedule another project to start on that date.

Project 1 (Begin Date and End Date). Project 2 (Begins on the End Date of Project 1 and End Date).

If I can manage to overlap projects, while still doing a quality job, then I go for it.

Final Thoughts: This plan works for me. It might not work for you. Each of us has to determine how we work best. Above all else, we cannot forget to enjoy the journey.

Staying True to Your Art: Life Lessons

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I originally had another post planned for today, but this topic kept me awake last night. I apologize if this comes off as angry. It is. My anger is directed exclusively toward the place it belongs: right in the mirror. We all make mistakes, but this one is a whopper. My hope in sharing this life lesson is to help others avoid the same pitfall.  I think it’s something every writer, artist and performer should keep in mind.

Stay true to the art you were given.

In the early 2000’s I began writing an intense epic fantasy about brother against brother and the sacrifice required from men and women of honor. It was a project that consumed me for several years. The epic consists of 9 “parts” at 110k words each in draft form. This story is one that I have to tell no matter how long it takes.

I decided to hire an editor to review the first book in the series. She had some great insight that helped me to improve my writing skills. Unfortunately, she gave me some bad guidance that sent me down a rabbit hole I’m still trying to climb out of six years later.  The well meaning editor convinced me that my book was a YA novel. It was, after all, during the Harry Potter craze and wasn’t everyone writing YA? I did a very stupid thing. Rather than trusting my instincts and staying true to the story I was given, I changed my character’s age and took out the dark fantasy elements. I forced MY story into someone else’s box. I tried pitching the book for three years, but no takers. People can tell when something is forced for the sake of a trend.

This week I’ve taken up the story again. Digging through old boxes of the story’s hard copies and searching e-copy versions, I see the multiple times I’ve tried to start over. Each failed attempt was yet another effort to shove the story into someone else’s box. Of course I failed. So, why is this time different? I’ve learned a few things over the past few years:

  • First – I know what I write and it isn’t YA.
  • Second – I have a unique voice. It isn’t for everyone, but I love it.
  • Third – this is an unstable business with many pitfalls. It’s better to make yourself happy by being true to your art than trying to please the trends of an industry constantly in a state of flux.

In June, I received notification the small press that published my dark fantasy, Phantom Harvest, was gobbled up by an outfit in New York City. This is either a good thing or a bad thing. Time will tell. I had intended to start work on Book Two, but the sale has brought about a little uncertainty for the series. Not to worry. I will complete the remaining two books in the Mutant Casebook Series no matter what. Just not right now. The sale and my experiment with indie publishing has given me the freedom to start my epic fantasy again. This time on my terms.

Final thoughts – it took six years, but my situation has started to right itself. I got lucky. Others might not have the same experience. So before you change your art for the sake of a trend, think about the consequences as well as the benefits. What’s it really buying you? If the answer is air and promises, I’d think twice.