Top 10 Things Unpublished Writers Hear

The road to being a published author is a bumpy one. Holding down a day job, raising kids, constant criticism, and your own internal struggle can be daunting. You know one day you’ll get there, but in the mean time, here are things you’ll probably wind up hearing.

  1. “Why don’t you just self publish?” or alternately “Why don’t you just find an agent?”

Not every publishing style is perfect for every writer. What works for someone else might not work for you.

2. “Can you write me something for free? It’ll be good publicity.”

I’ve heard this a few times from people who want something like fan fiction or smut stories between them and a character/celebrity. It’s not really great publicity, when I’m not a romance writer.

3. “You’re a writer? But what do you REALLY do to earn money?”

I’ve heard this one more than once. I have a day job, but one day I’d like to be able to say that IS what I do to earn money.

4. “You’re a writer? So is my uncle! His agent just sold his 5th book to a publishing house!”

I’m always happy to hear someone being successful, but yeah, sometimes I do get a little envious.

5. “You’re just not trying hard enough!”

For many writers, this can be true, but when you just start submitting, you’re at the beginning of your journey. Keep submitting. You’re doing great.

6. “You could be the next Stephen King!”

Do you know how lofty that goal is? Hell, I just want to get a book out there, I can focus on becoming ridiculously popular and established later.

7. “When does your book come out?”

Good question. As soon as I get that agent and manage to sell my manuscript I’ll let you know.

8. “What does your spouse/family think?”

I’m not sure why this one comes up. It always makes me scratch my head and wonder why it matters? Even if I didn’t have support I’d still be trying to be a writer. Should their opinion really matter that much?

9. “Why not write a book about something that’s popular right now?”

Because trends are constantly changing and you shouldn’t cater to what’s popular. By the time you’re finished with your book, it’ll be out of style.

 

10. “You just finished your first book, what are you going to work on next?”

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First, I’m going to take a second to breathe, send out query letters, build a writer’s platform and sign up for some conferences….then maybe write something about human cloning, but you know, that’s a little ways away. The point is, there’s a lot that comes next.

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5 Books That Changed My Life 

With Flightless being sent out to agents, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about books I’ve read that influenced my life as a writer. There are almost too many to pick from, but here are five that I still have on my bookshelf because of how they impacted me.

Most of the books on this list are from my childhood, or changed my life not because of what they said, but because of where I was when I was introduced to them. I believe that some books don’t have to have a powerful message, they just need to be in your life in the first place.


1. The Giver by Lois Lowry
This was the first book I read more than once. I was in sixth grade when I first got my hands on it, and Lowry’s writing captivated me in a way no other book had. Not because of the world or the characters, but the ideas. It made me think about who I was, and opened my eyes to themes in novels such as standing up for what was right and choosing the right path over the easy one. To this day, The Giver makes me want to not only write well, but to have my books mean more than just words on pages.

2. Full Tilt by Neal Shusterman
This book from my childhood, and its author if you’ve read my previous post about him, had a profound affect on my writing life. Full Tilt was the first book I read where the hero was reluctant to be one, and it showed me that not every protagonist needed to be excited by the aspect of being a hero. It shaped how I’d create my future characters.

3. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
I had to read this for a project in my high school English class, freshman year. I was a quiet high school kid with a fly under the radar type of attitude, but this book, like The Giver, taught me that I needed to chase after my dreams if I was ever going to achieve them.

 

4. Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
Back in 2008, as a quiet high school senior, I found a website dedicated to the Patricia Briggs series. I hadn’t read them, but the community was welcoming even to a newbie like me. I jumped on board and got to know fellow high school students obsessed with a world of vampires, werewolves, witches and then some.

It was here that I met someone who’s now a sister to me, who’s been my cheerleader when I’m down and an editor when I needed tough love. I want to meet, and sometimes surpass, her high standards and I hope to one day be half as creative and well spoken as her. If Patricia Briggs never wrote her Mercy Thompson series, I never would’ve found her, so I will always be grateful for her work.

5. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
This wasn’t the first book I read by Neil Gaiman, but it was the first time I was introduced to Terry Pratchett’s work, and wow, I was blown away. I read it only two years before his death, and when he passed away, I was crushed. Up to that point there was yet to be an author I enjoyed reading who died while I was only just getting introduced to their work and it reminded me to cherish the writers who are still alive.

 

The Dark Mother in Books and Movies

Just as a warning, this post contains dark imagery and unsettling pictures. Viewer discretion is advised. 

 

I love tropes. I know other people have mixed feelings about this, but I find them fascinating. While diving too far into tropes can become cliche, every writer uses them. Just one look at tvtropes.org, and it’s almost impossible not to.

So to celebrate tropes, I’m picking a few of my favorite to highlight in my Writing Wednesday posts. I’ll do one a month until I get tired of it, maybe more if people have suggestions for tropes they enjoy.

Today’s trope is….

The Dark Mother

With every trope or archetype, there is a dark side, and if there’s one archetype I love the most it’s that of the Dark Mother. She’s a force to be reckoned with and can be any caretaker or mother figure with dark intentions.

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Patron Saint of Last Nights Tears 5×5 oval oil by Jasmine Worth

 

Examples in Literature –

The Other Mother – Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Evil Stepmother/Queen – Every fairy tale ever
Cathy Ames/Kate Trask – East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Norma Bates – Psycho by Robert Bloch
Margaret White – Carrie by Stephen King

Examples in Movies –

Alien Den Mother – Aliens
Stephanie Smith – 8 Mile
Mary Jones – Precious
Queen Bavmorda – Willow

Why do I love this trope so much?

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Mother Catrina by liransz on Deviant Art

Mothers are supposed to be loving and caring. They’re our caretakers, who we learn love from, and when we have nothing, we’re supposed to be able to count on them to be there for us. As someone who’s a fan of flipping tropes on their head, the idea of a Dark Mother, one who gives life, but also takes it, has always been fascinating. She’s strong, but in a wicked way, and is morally compromised at every turn.

I hope to do her justice in some of my future novels, both as an antagonist, and as the powerful female figure she is.

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Aura by Lourdes Saraiva Art https://www.facebook.com/l.saraiva.illustrator

 

Which mother do you prefer in your movies and novels? The Light or Dark? Who’s your favorite example of a Dark Mother?

Why Authors Love the Pacific Northwest

I’ve traveled across the United States, from Texas to Washington, D.C., back to Texas, and then childhood summers spent up in Michigan. I remember family trips across the hot deserts of the American West, and sticky falls spent along the Gulf of Mexico through swamps. It wasn’t until the summer of 2016 did I finally make it to the Pacific Northwest.

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Beach at Solo Point. See my instagram for more pictures of my setting adventures.

Besides living with a family that loved to travel, I’m a military spouse who moves every two to four years. It’s left me with a wide array of places to chose from for a setting. From the city outskirts of Washington D.C., to back roads in the Texas Hill Country, to long twisted highways that carve through the Colorado Rockies; my mental setting bank is full.

Last year I moved to Washington state. It’s a part of the country I’ve only seen in television shows, books, and movies, and I’ve always wondered, what makes this area so special? What is it about the Pacific Northwest that pulls writers in?

I haven’t been here a year yet, and let me tell you. It’s been an experience. It rains more than I’ve ever seen, the people are eccentric, and the cities are small. But none of those are bad things. If anything, the area reminds me of growing up in Austin in the 90’s. People are active in their community, the land isn’t built up with subdivisions, and there are plenty of outdoor events for people to get back to nature.

When you get out of the cities, you find small communities centered around churches, rocky beaches with whole tree trunks tossed on the shore and if you go out east, over the Snoqualmie Pass, you find orange deserts and oasis towns.

With my next project in the works, a dark comedy and drama both of them supernatural pieces having to do with ghosts and death, I’ve set parts of it in the Pacific Northwest for a setting. Trips to Solo Point, a beach for military personnel to unload their boats, have been the most inspiring. The scenery is stunning and I hope to take a kayak out to the small island off shore to do some more exploring.

The longer I’m in this part of the country, the more I realize why writers and artists are drawn to this area. It’s lush, vibrant, and in spite of the rain, it’s beautiful.

Is there a part of the country you find yourself drawn to? Where do you enjoy setting your placing your novels?

What’s your favorite “How To” writing book?

I’ve been picky about what “how to” writing books I buy lately. Most of them are less about story structure, and more about the nitty gritty parts of writing.

Here are some of my favorite books on writing, but I’m in the market for more. Have any suggestions that improved your writing in any particular area?

16681583_1300483536656800_6852415959332937314_n1. The Emotion Thesaurus
Good for – writing character feelings through their body language.
Lacking in – For a thesaurus, it doesn’t list off as many emotions as I’d hope.

2. Writer’s Guide to Character Traits 
Good for – Nailing down Character behavior regarding their mental status.
Lacking in – It’s one sided and stereotypical at times.

3. Writing from the Senses
Good for – Writing more expressive and meaningful scenes.
Lacking in – It’s a little “How To” and repeats what I’ve read in other books.

4. Plot Vs. Character
Good for – Helps see things from a plot/character writer’s perspective.
Lacking in – Not sure. I really enjoyed this one.

5. Bullies Bastards and Bitches
Good for – Creating fun, deep, well rounded villains.
Lacking in – Can read a little Creative Writing 101.

6. Word Painting
Good for – Explains writing descriptively better than Writing from the Senses.
Lacking in – Not a whole lot. I really don’t have any complaints about this book.

 

Getting Over the Fear of Judgement From Loved Ones

I love my family. I’m sure some of them will read this one day, so let me repeat myself. I love my family. That being said, growing up where most if not every person in said family is either Catholic, Church of Christ, or Baptist, I’ve always been afraid of them judging my writing.

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My fears weren’t entirely uncalled for. As a child/young teen, I drew a lot, and there were more than a few eyebrows thrown up by what I enjoyed sketching. Fairies, dragons and magic were off limits, practicing the nude human form was scolded, and if I drew in a style that wasn’t approved of, anime for example, I was told to not practice it. While family members saw it as them protecting me, it created a harbor of insecurity for what I was creating.

Needless to say, I never shared my writing with the adults of my family when I started writing. There were a few cousins I trusted with my work, and a best friend I consider a sister, but those were the only people I opened up to. When I told my cousins and “sister” I was going to start submitting to agents, they weren’t surprised at all. For the rest of the family, however, it came as a shock that I was writing in the first place.

When I told them, I’ll admit, I was worried. I write about people with wings that are mistaken as angels, magicians with power over life and death, and ghosts who fall in love with girls and refuse to pass on. I have plans for a novel that revolves around a demon who hunts spirits that escape Hell and another set in a dystopian future that revolves around human cloning.

You can see why I was worried they might judge my subject matter.

How did I get over my fear of judgement and just get to writing?

In part, I found a support group. My husband, “sister”, cousins, and a strict, yet fun, tough love writing group in Texas all gave me a shoulder to lean on but they weren’t the only things that helped.

When I sat back and began to think about what I wanted in life, I realized that writing is what makes me truly happy. I love entertaining people, I love the look on people’s faces when they enjoy my work, and I love creating worlds to let characters run wild in. I love all of it. If my family can’t understand that, and judge me, that’s fine. It’s worth it.

When you’re creating anything, from a sketch, to a play, to a novel, you have to ask yourself, is it worth it? Is it something you can’t live without, or are you going to let fear of people who should love you regardless of your interests and what you’re writing stop you from reaching your goals?

What are your insecurities, and how did you overcome them? What advice would you give to artists struggling with judgement from loved ones?

One last note, if you haven’t heard Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” speech and you’re struggling with fears of rejection, have a listen. I can’t stress how important it was for me to hear this on my road to overcoming fear of insecurities.

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Interviewing for Novel Information

If you have questions while writing your book, chances are the answers are online. For writers, the internet helps us create more believable worlds, shaped our characters to sound more realistic, and given us enough information to become textbook experts on a number of topics.

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That being said, one of the most important tools in a writer’s skill set is the face to face interview.

Over my years of writing, I’ve spoken with a number of people regarding my writings. From a woman who lived at a Hindu temple in Texas, to a Wiccan priestess, to even people who trim trees for a living; I’ve contacted a number of individuals to speak with to help me create my novels.

Here are some questions I get asked from my fellow writers as to how I go about my interview process.

 

How do you find the people to interview?

I’m a wanderer. I like to go for drives to see where I end up, and often times it’s in the most interesting places with interesting people. If I’m not lucky enough to find a place, however, I check with friends and family to see if they know of anyone who’s associated with the topic I’m needing information about. And last case scenario, I check online for people who come recommended in their field.

What type of questions do you ask?

Anything that could possibly pertain to your novel. From personal opinions, to politics of that lifestyle, to what it took to get them to where they are today.  Most people are willing to share it all.

What should I do if I don’t use the information?

There have been a few interviews where the information I gathered wound up not helping me for my novel at all. In most cases, I don’t do anything. I log the information away and see if I can use it in the future. I do, however, keep track of who I interviewed so I can credit them, should I ever use the information they’ve given me.

 

Anything else?

Be up front – Not everyone will want to be interviewed for a novel. If you’re not honest with them, and later on they find out you used things they’ve said in your book, that’s a bridge you could potentially burn for future questions.

Have your questions written out ahead of time – No one wants to spend 45 minutes of an interview fumbling through words, or trying to come up with questions. This is especially important for phone interviews as the interviewee can get bored very quickly, and lose interest in what you’re asking.

Be polite and professional – This should be a no brainer, but keep in mind that this person is taking time to talk about their personal life or work. They don’t want to feel like they’re wasting that time or you don’t know what you’re doing. Again, you don’t want to burn bridges with people you might need in the future.

Be aware of scams/Be safe – This is another thing that should go without saying, but don’t feel like you should have to pay your interviewee. If you’d like to take them out to coffee or lunch, that’s one thing, but if someone’s demanding payment or is asking you to follow them to a location where you don’t feel safe, don’t do it.

Be grateful – I would recommend putting a mention to your interviewees in the acknowledgement of your book. Even if you only use a little bit of information from them, it’s important to show gratitude as a courtesy.

 

Best of luck on your interviews!

Tough Love Talk About “The Writing Fantasy”

This isn’t a tough love talk about writing fantasy. No, I’m talking about The Writing Fantasy. The fantasy all new writers and creators have about the world of writing.

This is coming from someone who’s never been published outside of vanity sites, so take it as you will. That being said the more I interact with writers, the more I get sick of hearing about this mythical world we’re supposed to live in.

So here we go! Top five fantasies I’m going to completely crush into the ground!

 

1. Every bad review or person who doesn’t like my work is personally attacking me!
 

Well okay there, self absorbed Sandra, let’s tone it down a notch. When someone doesn’t like your work, it has nothing to do with you as a person. I know it hurts when you put months or years into a project only to get rejected by agents, your audience, or even past fans, but you can’t make everyone happy. Is it okay to get your feelings hurt? Yes, but if every bad review makes you fall apart and threaten to quit creating art, maybe it’s time to take a step back.

Now there is an exception to this rule. If you’re getting the same negative feedback every single time you put something out there, but you’re not fixing your mistakes, yes, some of the reviews might start to get personal. This is because you’re not fixing things that your audience doesn’t like. If your counter to this is “Well, I’m writing it for me, not to make everyone else happy! I’m not a sell out!” then why bother caring about reviews in the first place? Heck, why even put it up for anyone else to read if it’s just for your personal enjoyment and you don’t care what other people think?

2. I don’t have to read other people’s work anymore because I’m a writer now.
 
This isn’t “I don’t have time”, this is the “Nick Miller” defense.

Most, if not all professionals in any job, keep themselves sharp through practice, study and staying informed. Reading is part of the studying/staying informed portion of that for writers. You learn how other authors break writing rules, what works in their market (or in some cases what doesn’t work), and how to better your writing by studying the works of others.

And for those who think “I can’t read anyone else anymore because I’m just so fantastic as a writer, it’s insulting to read their drivel.”

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Welcome back, self absorbed Sandra. Get over yourself. There’s ALWAYS someone better than you out there.

 

3. Writing is romantic so I should try and copy some of my favorite classic literature.

Copying an author’s style as a warm up is eye opening, or doing it so that it makes sense in the story can be acceptable when done well. It’s when you’re forcing it on every aspect of your writing does it get old. Here’s a little secret. Readers are smart. They’re going to know you’re trying to be someone you’re not. It comes off as insincere and boring. It’s one thing to try and find your voice, it’s another to be so pretentious to think you’re the next Hemingway or Poe so you have to copy their style down to the last period.

4. I’ll just get an agent and they’ll do everything for me!

No. Wrong. Don’t expect this. Agents are very busy and the last thing they want is an author who can’t pull their own weight. Many new authors have to do a LOT of work in order to get their work noticed. You need to self promote, keep up your writer’s platform, network with other authors, talk to your agents about possible marketing opportunities, travel on book tours, start your next book, look for contests or magazines to submit short stories to, and those are just things off the top of my head! There could very well be a million other chores to do in order to get your book off the ground. Don’t expect your agent to be your fairy godmother, as magical and amazing as many of them are.

5. Editing is for writers who don’t know how to write.

Editing is CRUCIAL to writing your book. I can’t tell you how many self published authors I’ve spoken to who’ve excitedly told me about how they “wrote a book in three weeks” and then instantly put it out to the public without even doing a second read through. I’m not going to point out that there could be HUGE grammatical errors (because trust me, there will be), but you could have completely forgotten to finish a paragraph, or you might’ve accidentally cut out something without realizing it that one night when you were up till 2am working. There could be glaring inconsistencies that might’ve been fixed if you just took the time to edit your work.

I’m not saying you have to spend years on edits, or completely rewrite your novel, but not even looking at your work once you’re done could turn off readers if you have annoyingly obvious problems with your work. I’m even going to go back through and do a round of edits on this blog posts just to make sure things look good! Editing is important!

If you don’t like editing, save up and hire an editor. There are a lot of affordable options out there, and if you’re serious about getting published, it’s easy to put aside the money here or there to get your work in the hands of a professional. (I’m putting aside my coffee funds every month to get one and yeah, it takes time to save up, but it’s a worthwhile sacrifice)

And that’s it! Those are the writing fantasies I’m crushing for today. I’ll probably do another Tough Love Talk about this later, but I figure this’ll be good for now.

What are some writing fantasies you’d like to crush for other people? Comment below and let me know!

Book Review #3 – Crimson Lake

When I read the work of a suspense author, I always have one worry. Is this story going to be the same type of tropes thrown into the same scenario? As much as I loved Hades, this question sat in the back of my mind. I should’ve known better, as Candice Fox did not disappoint.

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If you read my last review of her work, you’ll know I’m a big fan. So much so, in fact, shortly after I finished Hades, I ordered Eden, pre ordered Fall, and have my eye out for Never Never, a novel Fox wrote with James Patterson. When Fox contacted me with a chance to read Crimson Lake before it was released in the US, I have to admit, I might’ve fangirled just a little bit.

Crimson Lake is a small town in Cairns in Queensland, Australia, where Ted Conkaffey’s life is in ruins. Accused of kidnapping and torturing a young girl, he’s a retired cop with a tarnished name. He’s set on hiding from the world when he’s set up to met with Amanda Pharrell, a P.I. with murder in her past. The two begin their working relationship hunting for missing author, Jake Scully, under the eyes of a town that’s waiting for them to slip up.

If there’s one thing I enjoyed most of this novel, it was the protagonist, Ted. His fall from grace creates tension in a way that many authors are unable to capture. Not only is the reader able to feel his despair and emptiness, but there’s also rage and fury. He spirals into a depression and Fox makes his PTSD from his trial and experiences vividly realistic. Through all of it, I was rooting for him to succeed.

Amanda wasn’t a character to sneeze at either. She keeps Ted constantly pushed outside his comfort zone, and the two dynamics play well off one another.

I will say this though. Fox created two of the most unlikable police officers I’ve ever read. If anyone was going to get pushed into a bog full of crocodiles, I wanted it to be those two.  But here’s the thing. I LOVED to hate them. They made my skin crawl with how much they antagonized Ted, and made for a constant reminder that Ted’s life was always in danger because of what he was accused of.

You can purchase Crimson Lake on Amazon and if you’re a suspense fan, I say add it to your reading list!

Updating my Bookshelf – Call for Recommendations

Back in 2011, I made one of the biggest mistakes I could’ve made as a writer. I stopped reading. It wasn’t a conscious decision. I didn’t look at my bookshelf one day and go, “Who gives a crap about these things?”. But somewhere between moving, getting settled into the military life, and stressors that came up in 2012, I gradually fell out of the habit of reading.

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When I moved back to Texas in 2014, however, I slowly began to pick it back up again. I didn’t read nearly as much as I used to, but still more than I did in Virginia. I started with fun reads at first; Patricia Briggs has always been a favorite of mine and Neil Gaiman is more than entertaining, but I avoided nonfiction. When I couldn’t find a book, I went off recommendations of my friend, Alaska.

Now, in Washington, I make a point to pick up a book. I started updating my bookshelf in January, reading everything I can get my hands on, never wanting to fall back into the habit of not feeding the reader in me. I started with non-fiction, not only in subjects I want to know more about, but also to learn other people’s points of view and opinions. It’s like a reading revival over here, and I’m loving it!

What I finished reading in April

Hades by Candice Fox – Suspense/Murder Mystery
Crimson Lake
by Candice Fox* –  Suspense/Murder Mystery
Jonah Axe and The Weeping Bride by Claire L. Brown* – Time Travel/Fantasy
The Funhouse by Dean Koontz – Suspense/Fantasy

What’s currently on my nightstand/in my reading pile

Eden by Candice Fox – Suspense/Murder Mystery
The Last Wish by Andrzey Sapkowski – High Fantasy
Feast of Souls by C.S. Friedman – High Fantasy
The Stand  by Stephen King – Post Apocalyptic/Horror/Fantasy
Why I’m not a Feminist by Jessa Crispin – Nonfiction/Social Politics
Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs – Urban Fantasy
Fair Game by Patricia Briggs – Urban Fantasy
The Stolen Throne by David Gaider – High Fantasy

And what do I plan to buy next?

Lucifer Eve and Adam by Peter Wilkes & Catherine Dickey Wilson – Religious Fiction/Romance
Discovery of Witches by Debora Harkness – Historical Fantasy
The Devil of White City by Erik Larson – Nonfiction/True Crime

Any suggestions? List them below! I’m looking for suspense, urban fantasy, and dark fantasy, but welcome non-fiction as well.

* – Review coming soon

Author. Blogger. Traveler.