Tag: readers

I Don’t Know What to Write

I am a published author. It’s my job to write all the things…and when I finish writing them, to write something else. For the first time in five years, I don’t know what to write next.

That doesn’t sound too bad, right?

But it is. Because I don’t know if I even WANT to figure out what to write next.

Where is this Coming From?

This year, I stepped outside of my comfort zone to write a series. No, it’s not a series that is out of the zone for me. It’s the genre of this series and the method of publishing it.

I don’t want to be an independently published author. Crazy, right?

In this day when indies make as much money as many traditionally published mid-list authors (if they have a backlist and a decent following), you’d think I would embrace this new paradigm. Ah, the freedom! The income!

The stress. The multiple hat-wearing. The crazy schedule. The headaches of finding affordable cover designers, editors and formatters.

But I didn’t consider all this. After all, I had the second story half written. The third book was the same story from a different character’s perspective (how hard could that be?) And the fourth story…yeah, it might never exist.

I wrote two stories. I’m revising and editing book three (while book two is with my line editor), but the plan to write book four during November? It’s out. Because there is NO story. Not enough to write 30,000 words for sure.

I tell myself it is the burnout of writing this difficult genre (historical fiction based on biblical characters). Or it’s the fact I’ve been doing so very little “creative” work during this process. After all, I’m following the Bible’s outline.

Too much revising and editing make this writer a very cranky girl. Could I sell that along with a little “redrum” to the horror crowd?

Where could this Lead?

What’s scary to me is that in the five years I’ve been “doing this author thing” for real, I’ve never ONCE run out of passion, drive or stories.

Truthfully, I haven’t run short on story ideas now, either. But not a single one of them calls to me. Nothing says, “Tell my story or I will keep you awake.”

And since I don’t want to be an indie author, I’m looking mostly to my small publisher for ideas. Of course, SPP is all about series. The publisher is offering two “solo series” each year to authors who have published in any of her shared series. I have some ideas to pitch.

But none of them are siren songs to my creative soul.

I applied to write a story in one of the existing series. (The one that I wrote for originally is NOT going to be opened for any new stories.) The “open worlds” are going to be released in batches and only one time per calendar year. I have several ideas for that series, but I don’t know if I want to write them or not.

This lack of passion could lead to a total derailment of my “author career.” And just when I’m starting to get a “regular” paycheck that can buy more than a cup of coffee, too.

What if I have to take more sub jobs? Or write a ton of $5 emails on Fiverr? Is that what I want to do for the rest of my life?

No. I’ve said it before. My sub license expires in 2021, and I’m praying I’ll be making enough from other sources (especially my back list of novellas) that I won’t “need” to renew it. And I raised my prices on Fiverr which has led to a marked decrease of orders because I didn’t have time to deal with those piddly emails.

Where I’m NOT Going with This

Earlier this year, I mentioned taking a dive into the nonfiction world. I’d outlined and drafted a book called THROUGH THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS that chronicled my “grief” journey.

I’ve invested time on this idea this year, too. You can hear about my attempt at writing a proposal that would sell it to agents here.

I attended some online conferences especially to drop into sessions about writing nonfiction and memoir. During one of these, I signed up for a free 15-minute consultation with an author coach. She graciously agreed to look over my proposal and give me an idea of what she thought I’d need to write this book.

Needless to say, the book needs an overhaul. Mostly because I wrote it for me without a clue about structuring a nonfiction book.

Do I want to spend a $1000 and several months turning it into a finished product?

I know I won’t be able to sell it to an agent. I learned that from the Book Proposal Workshop I took this spring, and I don’t foresee anything changing that reality.

The answer here is pretty obvious.

Which brings me back to the original question: What do I want to write next?

What Do You Want to Read?

Thanks for stopping in to read my blog. Not many people do. That’s why I’ve trimmed back to posting once per week and often recycling older posts or content from some of my published works.

If you read my books, this is where I need your input.

I’ve been kicking around the idea of pursuing my “dream” of writing fantasy (possibly young adult fantasy). Would you buy and read it?

I’m also considering delving into women’s fiction since many of my romances are more about issues than finding love. Would you buy and read those?

Better yet, what do you LOVE to read? What do you WISH someone would write because you can’t find it anywhere?

Join the Discussion

Discussion holds the power to enlighten and inform. Of course, it needs to be a two-way conversation where listening happens as often as talking…and from both sides.

In our crazy “You Can Do it All” world, it can be difficult to maintain the focus needed to accomplish any task well. That’s one of the things I mention in my study guide Finding Focus through the Lens of God’s Word.

Eight Bible lessons to help you discover your focus

For the rest of this year, I’ll be offering the content of that book FREE to members of my Friends of Author Facebook group.

This is the table of contents from the book.

Session One:  Your Life in Pictures

Session Two: Where’s the Auto Focus?

Session Three: Choosing what to Focus on

Session Four: Focus-Helping

Session Five: Focus-Mentoring

Session Six: Focus-Teaching

Session Seven: Focus-Mothering

Session Eight: When Life’s out of Focus

To kick things off, we’ll start at the beginning, but I won’t go through every chapter. If you’re interested in joining with this study and discussion, go here to join the group. Then follow this link to fill out the poll where you select the top three topics from the book that you’re interested in reading and discussing. The four topics that receive the most votes will be discussed beginning in September.

Why Am I Doing This?

First of all, I’m trying to see if there is a market for this information.

Secondly, I need to build a platform of active followers if I want to convince an agent to take on the proposal I’ve been working on. More about that later once I decide if I can make a “course” out of the information that people might be interested in paying to obtain.

And finally, I don’t get a lot of traction here on my blog. A few people comment. If Google Analytics are painting the best picture, a few more are reading the blog without leaving any feedback.

But mostly, my writing here goes into the Virtual Ether and that’s the end of it. So why do I keep posting here?

A New Focus

Speaking of focus, I promised earlier this year that the blog articles would take on a new focus. But I haven’t really delivered on that.

Now is the time for that delivery.

Next year, all the content on this blog will be either research related to the REFLECTIONS series, book reviews or opinions that relate to either the genre of Biblical fiction or Christian living. At least once each month, I’ll share an article that relates directly to the topic  of grief and grief recovery.

If you’re a regular reader, I’d love to hear your input on these changes.

As always, thanks for reading.

You Said Video Would Gain Exposure

Facebook algorithms favor video. Oh, and groups. So, to get the best organic exposure on facebook, post videos in your groups.

Sure. Whatever you say.

Who said it? People who know all about making your brand stand out. Professionals who are PAID to make videos that bring in customers.

But I’m an author. I’m not selling a class. And, sadly, I’m not selling many books either. But if I get my face out there, people will hunt down my stories.

Hey. No need to hunt. I’ll provide the links.

But, apparently, the quest is part of the excitement. Or something.

So I took a course about making videos to share my brand.

https://sharonhughson.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/2143024042585774-record.mov

But one is never enough. In fact, once a week is probably not enough.

My unplanned videos got the best views.

When I tried to only post the video to my group, only two people watched it. Of course, there are only 20 members (maybe) in the group, I shouldn’t have been surprised.

https://sharonhughson.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/img_0315.mov

So I went back to posting live on my author page. And my sister watched.

Of course, I didn’t really announce that I would be going live. I need to do that. Maybe more people would show up if I did that. Maybe I’ll do that next week.

If I wait until the evening when more people might be on Facebook, maybe that will get me more views, too.

Who knows?

All I know is that I fumble for something to talk about in these videos, and no one comments to give me any ideas.

https://sharonhughson.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/img_0361.mov

So, here I am posting a video or three on my blog. Because a few people read that, right? Maybe they’ll watch the videos and leave me some feedback.

I wish building my brand and audience worked the way the “professionals” said it would.

If wishes were riches, I’d own a small country.

If you’re reading this, what do you wish an author would talk about on live videos? If you watched the videos, what would make them more engaging?

When your Happily Ever After Gets REAL

Today, I’m jitterbugging all over my office. It’s an exciting day for me, and I hope you’ll join the fun. Who doesn’t love happily ever after?

Good News: The final installment of the Virtual Match romance series will be released by Roane Publishing on January 22, 2018

Yes, I’ve had the signed contract for some time. I probably already mentioned this news to my faithful Facebook followers.

However, I wasn’t authorized to share specifics–until today.

So let’s start with the gorgeous cover.

And then, to whet your appetite for the rest of Ronnie and Marcus’ story, here’s the official blurb:

Happily ever after collides with reality to make or break their love.

Systems architect Marcus Jordan proclaims his love for career girl Veronica Shay, but life keeps hurling obstacles into their relationship. When Ronnie’s niece is born prematurely, Ronnie rushes to be the big sister Tony needs, knowing she is to blame for his fear of failing at fatherhood.

Marcus decides to help put their daddy issues to rest, but his discovery sends Ronnie into a tailspin. Ronnie already knows trusting men risks her heart and stability. Why would she want to meet the first man who rejected her?

An even bigger secret about Ronnie’s father convinces Ronnie to give him one chance to explain, never knowing it will bring her face to face with the true source of her trust issues.  Will the revelation come too late to restore the happiness she’d found with Marcus?

Now comes the part where you get to show your excitement. 

As always, there will be a week of promotional posts when the book releases. And I need your help. If you have a Twitter account, or a Facebook profile or a blog, would you be willing to Tweet or post about the release on January 22?

If so, please click on this link. It will take you to my publisher’s official promotional tour page. Fill it out so you can get all the goodies needed to build your post for the BIG release.

Or maybe you know a book blogger? Or another romance author? I hope you believe in my writing enough that you could forward this link to those people, asking if they would support an independent author whose trying to get the word out.

As always, there will be a giveaway associated with the release, and I’ll make sure to pass along those juicy details as they become available.

To make sure you get all the details, special sneak previews and special access to review copies and giveaways, click here and I’ll send you a FREE romance to tide you over while you’re waiting.

You haven’t started this series yet? Why not check out the first book, Reality Meets its Match now?

Now to dance a little over my real life happily-ever-after.

An Online Book Club

Book clubs should be for discussing books and recommending books. Can you do such a thing online? That’s what I intended to find out when I joined Reader’s Coffeehouse.

One of my goals for 2017 was to join a book club. I love to read, so why not turn it into an opportunity to socialize.

Because we author-types tend to be anti-social reclusive and introverted. But books are our thing.

How I Found It

There’s no science behind finding this group. In fact, it sort of found me.

My friends list on Facebook is a combination of family and friends I know personally AND a bunch of writers I’m networking with, most of whom I haven’t met in person.

Guess what’s true about most writers?

They like to read.

And it was one of these friends who suggested the group to me. I think all they did was share a post from the group. It appeared in my newsfeed and the rest…is social media connection.

However, I’ve found other writing and reading groups by searching for them on Facebook. I’d recommend a private group, and I’m not sure you can search them.

Maybe a Facebook expert will comment on this.

The Group Format

The group I’m a member of was founded by nine (women’s fiction) authors. They regularly host drawings for their books (paperback, audio and digital).

One of these authors lives in a city near me. I’ve met her in person, listened to her speak about her writing methods and talked to her about the publishing industry.

Until that transpired (at a local library), I hadn’t even heard of her. That night I bought a trade paperback of one of her novels.
And I was hooked.

She wasn’t my usual sort of author. Her stories didn’t have total resolution or even a happy ending. But the people were vividly real. And she made me laugh.

Each day, one of the founders posts a question on the group page to spark discussion. I rarely comment on these. However, I’ve connected with other readers on Goodreads because of one such post and managed to win a couple books.

Each month, there is a book to read that is discussed with the author on the last day of the month. The list for the year is posted in the group (but not exactly pinned, so I copied it onto my tablet).

I’ve read four of the six books. I’ve commented on the discussion of three of those four.

End Results

While I’ve enjoyed interacting with this group, it’s not the same as when I had a monthly live and in-person group to meet with.
The comments are directed to the author of the book, meaning there isn’t much actual discussion about the story or characters or setting. I’m sure these are more interesting to non-authors who are curious about the process behind the page.

I just want to talk about books. Did the story engage me? Did the characters inspire or irritate me? Would I recommend the book to others?
So…the conversation about books has fallen short of my expectations.

Has the group fulfilled my needs? Partly.

I’ve met new authors and readers. I’ve read books I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

But it didn’t get me out of the house. And it certainly didn’t unhook me from the computer.*sigh*

There are rumors that a few of the members of my former book group are planning to reconnect in September. I hope and pray it is so.

Until then, I’ll keep scrolling through the recommendations and reading the monthly book. Hopefully, I’ll keep winning books, too.

Have you ever been in a book club? What makes it successful?

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

Maybe you like romance or some of my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

Already read one or more of my books? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. A review is the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

Putting Yourself Out There

One of the hardest things about being an author is putting myself out there. It goes against every self-protective gene in my body. Not to mention coughing up a big loogey on my mother’s manners curriculum.

Today, I’m over on a fellow author’s blog. She’s someone I admire. I have fan-girled over her books on this blog.

I love the colors of this cover
I love the colors of this cover

Because of that, she’s asked me to read the next book in her young adult science fiction series and it’s a pulse-pounder. I’ve also been privy to a book she’s begun marketing that’s written for adults.

I’m happy to give her partial credit for my acceptance in the anthology she’s helping me promote today. She read the first chapter and shredded it.

When I sent her the rewritten scene, she praised it. Talk about making a writer feel pretty good.

“An amazing author in this genre thinks this is great.” *dancing around the room*

But I’m getting off the topic. There’s two ways that putting myself out there is most difficult.

Putting Stories from my Heart in Harm’s Way

Some of the stories I write are turned out in days for a specific reason. Although there is an element of “me” in them, my heart isn’t fully vested.

A novel that has taken months to write, rewrite, revise and edit? There’s a huge investment of my heart, soul and mind on those pages.

And then the agent rejects them.

The publisher criticizes the story line.

Readers rip on the characters in a review.

Or worse…people read it and then *crickets*

And I don’t want to ask, “What did you think of my book?”

Because if they aren’t bubbling over about it, the words that will answer that inquiry will wound me. Even if they’re spoken kindly.

Bragging about my Books so People Buy Them

Isn't she lovely? And on sale until the end of the year.
Isn’t she lovely? And on sale until the end of the year.

Okay, I don’t think I really ever brag about my books.

But I do post links on social media so people can buy them. I run ads. I carry boxes in my car.

I’m eager to make a sale.

And not for the money.

But so I can return to the position mentioned under number one. Because I want my story to burrow into the hearts and minds of readers.

If I had a dozen real fans (meaning they aren’t related to me and probably have never met me in person), I would hyperventilate. A dozen?

That’s how pathetic I am. Because all the big indie book marketers know you need 1000 readers to have a “successful” book.

And your inner circle of dedicated fans should be at least 100 so they will make your next book release amazing. After all, hitting high rankings on Amazon is what it’s all about, right?

Wrong.

And that’s why putting myself out there still feels like walking naked on the stage at high school graduation (not that I KNOW how that feels).

Cold. Embarrassing. Terrifying.

So, if you can give Jennifer a little love today by clicking through and leaving a comment on her blog, that would be like dropping a robe over my shoulders.

If you shared this post with your group of friends on Facebook or Google, this writer couldn’t get more fully clothed.

Have you ever put yourself out there? What was hardest about it?

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.
Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.
Already read one of more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. That’s like the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

	

Happy Birthday to my biggest fan

Every author wants to have someone who believes in their writing so much they’ll buy it without blinking at the price. Some writers have fans like this who they’ve never met in real life. I have my sister.

And today is her birthday.

So I thought I’d take this opportunity to let everyone know what a fantastic person she is. Not just because she believes in me and buys my books. (You really think I’m that shallow?)

My sister and I share a common history. Not only does this involve our shared genetic ancestry, but it also includes experiencing the nature and nurture of environment for sixteen-plus years.

Walking to honor our Mom at the Relay for Life
Walking to honor our Mom at the Relay for Life
Anyone who knows us understands our shared experience doesn’t mean we’re similar. Although she does like to claim we’re twins (mostly so she can deduct two years from her age).

We understand where the other one is coming from. A lot of things remain unsaid in our conversations (and this totally baffles my husband) because they’re understood.

In the book that is our lives, we don’t need to go on about back story. We lived it together. Do we know every emotion and every heartache? No. But we understand the context for all of those things.

Top Five things I Love about Her

  • She loves to read the same kinds of books I do (and she lends me her books all the time)
  • She listens well and her responses show both how well she heard and how smart she is
  • We can do outdoorsy things together because we both love to walk and hike
  • I feel accepted and appreciated by her even when I’m being a huge jerk (are you surprised that I’m a jerk? Or just that I would admit it in such a public forum?)
  • We can talk about anything and everything (can you tell I like to talk?)

Five things I bet she would Change about Me

Since my big sister is such a nice person, you’d really have to twist her arm to get her to admit she’d like to change anything about me. So this list should probably be renamed.

What my sister makes me want to change about myself. 

Sounds better right?

  • My sarcastic humor which goes too far sometimes and pops out at inappropriate moments
  • My sweet tooth. Back in the day, it would have been so there’d be more Russian Teacakes for her, but now it’s because she wants me to be healthy
  • The knack I have for putting myself down
  • Confidence in my writing ability (because she believes I am so much better at writing than I really am, so it makes me work hard to improve)
  • All my excuses – because I should have been where I am now two decades ago, but I had so many justifiable causes to hold me back

So – no more excuses. Why are you still writing this blog, Sharon? Get back to the writing that will be published and read. Words that will change the world.

Happy birthday, Sister. Hope you have a wonderful day. You deserve it!

When You Want to Read Three Books at Once

The worst part of the vacation I recently took was that my Amazon book order didn’t show up before I left. Instead, three books I’d been slavering over arrived on my doorstep while I was gone.

When I got home, I stared into one of my favorite gifts-a box of books-and my eyes glazed over.

I wanted to read all of them. All three were the newest release in series I enjoyed.

How is a girl supposed to choose?

I decided based on how recently I’d read the first book in the series. It had been less than two months for one of these three books.

So I picked up The Skylighter by Becky Wallace.

The Skylighter

Love this world and these characters. Wallace ended the first book with our characters in peril and so this novel starts at a sprint and rarely slows for breathers.

I enjoyed the growing romance between Rafi and Johanna because it spotlighted their individual character and priorities. The sad truth that love is rarely convenient and often a nuisance was fun to consider.

My favorite character from book one was Leao, the immortal who was played by Legolas (ie Orlando Bloom) in my mind. His unique powers as a full mage were explored (and exploited) in this novel. There were moments I wanted to throw the book against the wall because things weren’t easy for Leao, or his love interest Pira.

A few twists are in store for readers. I don’t like to spoil anything. I will say that the “ultimate” bad guy didn’t impress me much. I never understood his true motivations, so he seemed more like a caricature than anything else.

I didn’t fully accept the “change” in Vibora late in the novel. After she had been built up so convincingly as completely evil in the first book, it was difficult for me to accept the change. Wallace did lay groundwork and make it an evolving switch, but it still didn’t sit well with me.

One part of the story I didn’t anticipate was the portion from Dom’s viewpoint. It was vital to the tension and pace and overall understanding of the story. I liked him, but felt his character arc peaked too quickly. Many of the things that happened in his portion of the story were predictable to the point of heavy sighs and almost eye rolling.

People I liked were killed. The bad guys lose in the end. These two things can be mutually exclusive, but I’m more willing to accept the first when the second is the payoff.

All in all, this was a satisfying sequel to The Storyspinner (which is the best book I’ve read in 2016). I give it 4.8 out of five stars.

A Daring Sacrifice

The second book I picked from this stack of three “I can’t wait to read” novels was A Daring Sacrifice by Jody Hedlund. This is a sequel – sort of – to An Uncertain Choice, which I read last year.

Here we have Juliana, a female Robin Hood, robbing a man we were introduced to as an amazing knight. Her backstory is interesting and convincing, although this novel could have been longer to explore that more.

Collin has inherited his father’s massive estate which borders the estate where Juliana was born and raised as a noble for the first ten years of her life. He has a spoiled sister and very little interest in being tied to an estate. He’s enjoyed his adventures with The Noblest Knight.

Collin immediately sees through Juliana’s disguise as a man when she robs him. He follows her with his unbeatable tracking skills and takes her back to his estate.

If Juliana hadn’t been gravely injured, I wouldn’t have accepted her staying with him for nearly a week. Of course, he does pay her in gold and jewels. I found this somewhat belittling, but Juliana accepted it as a way to provide for her band of peasants in hiding.

The politics behind Juliana’s forced hiding were hardly touched upon. The romance was enjoyable without knowing all these details, but the broader story suffered because of these omissions.

Collin was the one of the three knights I chose in the first book, so it was nice to see him find true love. It isn’t an easy path. It’s complicated by cruel and greedy men, a spoiled lady and a headstrong woman.

This novel earns four out of five stars from me. It’s fairly short, a quick read, but perfect for fans of the Robin Hood trope. As the first book ended with a hint about the danger of the second, this one ends with a preview of the danger awaiting Sir Bennet in the next book.

Calamity

This is the final book in Brandon Sanderson’s The Reckoners series. And just because I read it last doesn’t mean I was anticipating it any less than the other two books.

Sanderson impressed me with his Mistborn trilogy and has become my favorite fantasy author for adult books. He’s been exploring the young adult fantasy genre, as well, and this series is proof that he’s a man of many talents.

Calamity is the name of the so-called meteor that appeared a decade ago and transformed some humans into super-humans. Notice I didn’t say super heroes. In fact, nearly one hundred percent of the time, the powers drove these people to do heartless and despicable things. In fact, this abuse of power has transformed the United States into the Fractured States.

David Charleston watched one of these Epics kill his father. From that time, he made a study of every epic to learn how to destroy them. In the first book, Steelheart, he was recruited by The Reckoners, a rogue group whose goal was to dethrone the Epics, in order to help them carry out a plan to kill Steelheart, the Epic who murdered his father and held all of Newcago (yes, Chicago in our world) hostage.

While David mourned the loss of his father, he channeled that grief into hatred for Epics. Until he realizes the girl he loves is one. And the man he works with and respects.

This final installment of the series deals with David’s plan to save his friend Prof, whose powers have subverted him to become the evil overlord of Atlanta, Limelight. And carry out a plan to destroy Calamity, which is at the heart of the problem. After all, if there was no Calamity, there would be no powers. Or at least the powers wouldn’t turn people to darkness.

I still haven’t decided if I can buy into the fact that Calamity is actually an Epic himself. I don’t want to give too much of the story away, so I won’t explore my doubts in this review. However, it seems highly unlikely that the way Calamity came onto the scene would have ever been accepted as “a meteor” or some other anamaly. But this is what the author wants us to believe.

David spends too much time revisiting his past with his father, which is something that was lost beneath the plans of the day in the second book. In the end, this also seemed contrived to me because of the way the story wraps up.

I’ll be the first to admit that the idea of paralell dimensions and random superhuman powers is beyond my realm of comprehension. Still, I expect the explanation of these things to follow a form of logic that I CAN understand. My brain is still working over the nuances of this story to see if Sanderson did that.

I may have to re-read the entire series before I decide.

These conundrums didn’t keep me from enjoying the story. It was well-planned with a suitable number of twists, turns and cliff dives. The pages kept turning, and I wasn’t ready for it to end when I got to the last page.

I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get to be inside Megan’s head in this book. She had become one of my favorite parts of this series, and has plenty of ghosts of her own to battle. Instead, her ability to subdue the darkness is trivialized, which it shouldn’t have been. But since the novel was all written from David’s perspective, we couldn’t really grasp the battle. And Megan isn’t the type to bleed emotions all over the place.

I will say the aspect that Sanderson might have considered his biggest surprise, really didn’t shock me too much. However, I couldn’t comprehend the underlying logic of the villain. And the purpose of his visit to Earth wasn’t satisfactorily explained.

This is still a four-star story. Whenever you blend all these fantasy elements, some of them won’t measure up in the mind of readers. I’m sure the young adult and new adult readers, the target audience for this series, will be quicker to take all of this at face value.

And since I’m talking about re-reading the entire series, you know I’m not disappointed I read it the first time.

What about you? Have you ever picked up or recieved in the mail a number of books (or something else) and faced the dilemma of deciding which one to read first (where to begin)? Do you have a fantastic decision-making strategy to share?

Time to COLLIDE with Melissa J. Crispin

I’m an author and sometimes I get lucky enough to hang out with other authors.

Such is the case with my guest today. I met Melissa in a critique group on Scribophile. We chatted about life-type things before discussing writing stuff. Well, maybe talked about both at the same time.

I’m thrilled to announce that Melissa is living my dream. Her young adult romance novel is being released by Evernight Teen (these people rejected a short story I sent them, but all is forgiven since they are publishing Melissa’s novel).

Let’s hear what Melissa has to say about her characters, her writing life and what she hopes to gain through this whole writing thing (and it isn’t money or fame).

ME: The main character in your novel COLLIDE is a ballerina. Do you dance? Why did you choose ballet over another kind of dancing? Why dancing at all, since it isn’t something most teenagers do?

MELISSA: I love this question. I took ballet for a few of years when I was little, but I wasn’t good at it. Not by a long shot.

Both my daughter and my niece attend the same dance school, and there’s a big show at the end of every year. When a senior graduates and is getting ready to move on, the owner of the school always does a recap of the person’s history. Many of them dedicated a lot of time and effort, and it showed in their performances. Some started their journey when they were four years old, kept at it through high school, and a few chose to continue with it even after that. My main character, Kayla, was inspired by a mixture of the stories I’ve heard while sitting in the audience.

ME: What motivates you to write for young adults?

MELISSA: Since the protagonists in YA stories are so young, it allows me to create characters that will truly develop and grow as he or she is thrown into a difficult situation. There are so many possibilities when you’re around that age, and so many hardships that you need to work through. I especially love writing about people who discover emotional strength in themselves that they didn’t know they had, and I think that’s a theme that lends itself well to YA.

,ME: What would be your ideal interaction with a reader?

MELISSA: As a new author just starting out, it would bring me great joy just to know that someone read my work and liked it. Whether that’s through some form of social media or someone telling me something along those lines in person, it would definitely bring a big, dorky smile to my face.

ME: How long have you been writing? Can you give us a glimpse into the publishing process for this book?

MELISSA: I started writing about six years ago. I was tearing through a ridiculous number of books, reading like crazy, then decided to try my hand at it. I’ve been doing it ever since.

It took a long time to get to this point with COLLIDE, and I’m so happy that I never gave up. I spent about a year getting the first draft written. I remember thinking that it was taking forever, but I work full time, so finding the time to write can pose interesting challenges. I went through two rounds of beta reads and then worked with a freelance editor. I did another round of revisions after that, and was over the moon when Evernight Teen accepted my manuscript for publication. I went through edits with them as well, and now this baby is finally ready.

ME: Name a Young Adult book/series that you think all teens should read. Why?

MELISSA: Is it okay if I name two?

ME: *quirks and eyebrow before granting a single nod*

MELISSA: First, the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor is awesome. I think any teen that reads it can learn a lot. I know that Fantasy isn’t a genre for everybody, but the subject matter tackled in each of the books is relatable to real life. The main characters endure warfare, love, and loss in this incredible world that is brought vividly to life by the author.

I’m showing that I’m no spring chicken with this next suggestion, but I think every teen should read The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I loved this book as a kid, and I still find myself watching the movie whenever I catch it on TV. The story highlights that people shouldn’t be judged based on where they came from, but who they are. I find the display of loyalty and love the Greasers have for each other moving as well.

ME: Young Adult books have been getting turned into movies right and left in recent years (HUNGER GAMES, DIVERGENT, MAZE RUNNER). Why do you think this genre draws people into theaters?

MELISSA: I think several of the YA books that have been adapted to film share a common thread. Though the stories are very different in nature, the main characters seem to be ordinary teenagers thrust into extraordinary situations. They’re called upon to rise to the occasion and fight. Whether they’re fighting for life (Fault in our Stars, If I Stay) or for a greater good (Divergent, Hunger Games), they are seemingly average people that need to find the courage to go on. I think the ability to watch this kind of struggle and witness the characters transform is empowering for all, whether you’re young or old.

ME: I hereby grant you a movie deal. What actors will play your main characters?

MELISSA: Well, wouldn’t that be awesome. *sticks her tongue out*

For Kayla, I would choose Elle Fanning. I loved her as Princess Aurora in Maleficent and I could picture her in a role as an aspiring ballerina.

I had a tough time deciding on the male leads! This is harder than I thought it would be.

For Alec, I think a younger version of Scott Eastwood would be perfect. Okay, so he’s not in high school, but neither am I, so you’ll have to work with me on that one. 😉 He strikes me as a swoon worthy guy who would be good at protecting his lady.

I’d love to see Theo James, Four, from the Divergent movies, play Luke. Again, not of high school age so it would have to be a younger version of him, but I love how he shows both a tough side and a gentle side in those movies, which is a lot like Luke.

What’s COLLIDE about?

Collide-CoverPreviewWhen the balance between Earth, Afterlife, and Heaven are threatened, the fate of the universe falls on a selfish girl who must sacrifice everything to save it.

Kayla has a plan. She’s moving to the city after graduation and Luke’s coming with her. He’ll eventually become a doctor, she’ll be a ballerina—and they’ll live happily ever after. That is, until dark forces, led by a sister she never knew existed, start hunting her down for a power she never knew she had.

When Kayla starts working with a boy named Alec to learn how to defend herself and to stop the evil from eliminating the worlds, she finds herself falling for him. Hard. Torn between two loves and struggling to do what’s right for Earth and Afterlife, Kayla must decide if she’s fighting to keep her life together, or letting it go to save everyone else’s.

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A little bit about Melissa

MelissaJCrispin-AuthorPicMelissa J. Crispin lives in Connecticut with her husband, two kids, and an adorable Siberian Husky. She spends her days in the corporate world, and pursues her passion for writing in the late nights and early mornings.

From micro-fiction to novels, Melissa loves to write stories in varying lengths. But, no matter the story, it’s almost always about the romance.

You heard it from her own mouth. Melissa wants to hear that you read and liked her story and promises to do a goofy grin in exchange. Here’s where you can connect with Melissa:

Website: http://melissajcrispin.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MelissaJCrispin

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/melissajcrispinauthor

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/melissajcrispin/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/MelissaJCrispin

Writing in a New Direction

Which-Way-is-the-Right-way-for-Satellite-Web-Browsing-Sometimes directions are clear: “Turn left at the next stop light.” Other times, the directions can be convoluted: “Take the next right. Keep left.” (My GPS often says this, in fact. Amazingly unhelpful.)

In 2013, I started in a new direction. I quit my job with the school district to pursue a writing career full-time. I finished my bachelor’s degree and wanted a change.

Immediately thereafter, I finished my first young adult fantasy novel and had begun writing its sequel. I took a class on antagonists from Writing Jedi Master Kristen Lamb. When we spoke on the phone about my story, I learned it was gobbledygook without a clear purpose.

Back to the drawing board. For another young adult fantasy series, which Kristen and I had discussed during the heart-shattering call. Her advice: write the entire series before going back to edit book one. That way I’d know what the “real” story of the series was by the time I was rewriting.

Six months later, I had three complete novels in very rough first draft form. The summer of 2014, I attempted to market the first book in the series. By the time I’d gotten the final rejection back, I knew the first book was crap needed work.

But I had this amazing idea for a contemporary young adult fantasy. Dragons, erupting volcanoes, teenagers with special powers and the end of the world at stake. Who wouldn’t want to read that?

Or maybe the question should be: who wants to read it?

I’m still waiting for the rest of the rejection letters to roll in, but I think I finally figured something out.

What I Can Sell

As much as I love young adult fantasy, I’m not going to break into publishing with those stories.

No, I’m not giving up. I’m not copping out.

I’m being realistic.

Young adult is the fastest growing and most competitive fictional market right now. And fantasy has to have a certain bent to even get a look.

Sadly, dragons aren’t it.

Dragons: so TEN years ago.

Short fiction: I have sold three short stories. Two of them are sweet romances written to a new adult audience. The third is a young adult dark biblical retelling.

Bible studies: These are independently published by me, and I don’t price them to make a bundle. However, I do have a small following who enjoys my quirky teaching style.

Writing that Grows Me

In the end, writing the biblical fictionalization and Bible study books challenge me as a person. They require a slightly different writing voice and tons more research than most of my fiction stories.

In short, they stretch me out of my comfort zone.

And if people will buy them, I should produce them.

My Big Dream

During November, I wrote the first book in another young adult series.

I know. I know. I never learn.

What’s different about this book? It uses the short story I’ve already sold as a springboard into my post-apocalyptic universe. I continued the story of Scisco Irons, a sixteen-year-old blacksmith who dreams of discovering the technology destroyed in his homeland during the Demon Wars. And escaping the backward region he’s lived in forever.

I introduced a snarky teenage girl with major trust issues. Added in a “mentor” character with a pile of his own secrets.

The best part, I pitched the outline to the publisher of the short story (at her request, because she liked the world introduced in that story and saw potential for the story to continue). She wants to see it.

I have a professional editor who will help me content edit the first draft and polish the second draft to get it ready for submission. She’s employed by the publisher but has offered to help me because she believes in my story.

The dream:

I submit this manuscript in May 2016. The publisher adores it and offers me a three-book contract (that will finish out the series as I’ve envisioned it).

During our conversations, I mention my four other manuscripts. She asks for outlines of each of them. Why not, right? It doesn’t cost her anything.

She sees the potential in all of them and offers me another contract on Doomsday Dragons and asks to see the first Gates of Astrya book before deciding on that series.

Of course, the Age of Apocalypse series will appear in bookstores everywhere during 2017-2019. I’ll have an enormous fan base. They’ll scarf up anything I write.

The rest is J.K. Rowling’s history.

Where I’m Going Now

As often as I’ve been accused of being a dreamer, I’ll argue that point. I’m a realist. Yes, I’m a realistic optimist, but I know better than to float on the puffy vapors of “hope it happens.”

I’m going forward. I have a novella releasing in a collection with nine other independent romance writers in February. And I’ll say this, romance rolls from my heart onto the page. Nearly effortlessly (and then the editing torture begins).

All those years of sneaking my mom’s romance novels into my room to read when I should have been sleeping are paying off. Unfortunately, those royalties aren’t buying too much at the moment.

I have another study book in the works. There are ideas for sequels to Reflections from a Pondering Heart, but I’m not convinced that’s where I should invest my time.

My biggest project idea is a grief memoir/Bible study combination. I’ve got this baby outlined, and I’ve started amassing research. Am I ready to tap into my personal losses for the memoir vignettes? That’s the big unknown.

I’ll keep subbing short stories to anthologies – romance, young adult and fantasy. My crazy ideas will find their way into the spiral notebook I have dedicated for them.

Writing is more than my passion or my dream. I’m convinced it’s my calling.

And I’m saying “yes.” Even if I’m unsure of the direction it will take me.

Any advice? What would you like to read from me?