Blue Violet: Excerpt #2 – Firestarter

SPOILER ALERT:  This excerpt gives away a little something about my main character that you don’t know immediately in the book.  Read at your own discretion.

A bit of background. My main character, Ellie, has the ability to control other people’s powers when she’s touching them. In this scene, Ramsey is a firestarter. They’re very rare because they can’t control their power and it ends up killing them eventually.  She’s testing out his power to see if she can teach him how to control it, and therefore survive it.

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Standing in the middle of the clearing, Ellie faced Ramsey. The solemn boy was nervous, although he was hiding it well. She gave him a reassuring smile. “This won’t hurt.”
She held out both hands for him to take. After a miniscule pause, he reached out and grasped her hands in his, and Ellie closed her eyes. The glow inside Ramsey was a deep red. She reached out with her mind and pulled it into herself.
With a gasp, Ellie felt the power surge through her wildly. She and Ramsey both literally went up in flames. But they weren’t harmed by the fire.
Ellie felt Griffin tense to use his shield. No,she thought at him. Give me a minute…,
He backed off.
Ellie relaxed into the power. She could immediately feel why firestarters had such a hard time. Volatile emotions of hate, anger, fury and rage threatened to consume her wholly, and Ellie concentrated on controlling her newly wild and foreign feelings.  She felt her control slipping further and further away, and her fear deepened as her feelings grew more intense.
Suddenly, an overwhelming sense of serenity pulsed through her. It was almost like being washed in cool water on a scorching hot day. It was exhilarating and peaceful all at the same time. It was exactly what she’d needed to get a grip on the power and the emotions. Pulling those into her control, she started to get a feel for the actual power itself.
“Do you feel that?” she asked Ramsey.
“Yeah,” he breathed. “Are you doing that?”
Ellie shook her head. “It’s not me.”
A suspicion formed in Ellie’s mind about where that feeling of peace had come from, but she’d have to deal with that in a minute. Right now she needed to focus on mastering this power.
“Okay, Ramsey. I think I’ve got control at least,” she continued aloud. “Give me a little time to see what you can do.”
To the others who were watching from afar she appeared to simply stand, unmoving, eyes closed, and engulfed in flames. After about twenty minutes of working through things, Ellie smiled and opened her eyes. She also felt Ramsey starting to shake as his control started slipping.
“Okay, Ramsey, I’m going to take over completely now. You ready?”
At his nod, she pulled the glow completely into herself. The flames moved off of Ramsey and solely on to her. Not even the hands still linked with hers were touched by the fire.
As soon as she had full control, Ellie started playing. First she extinguished the fire completely. She heard Ramsey’s small intake of breath and felt him relax for the first time since they’d started.
“Don’t worry,” she assured him, “I’ll show you how after I’m done.”
Her face took on a mischievous look.
“Oh jeez,” Griffin muttered. Then he added louder, “Watch out. She’s about to get feisty with it.”
Ellie gave the onlookers a sassy wink. To Ramsey she asked, “You ready for this?”
 “I guess,” was his less-than-enthusiastic response. Ellie grinned.
“Here we go!” Still holding one of Ramsey’s hands, Ellie let go with the other and extended her hand, palm up, where a small flame appeared. “Eventually, as you master the skill, you’ll have very specific control.” She shrunk the flame to a small ember. She then grew it so that it was about six inches high.
“You can pick what you are burning quite precisely.”  She changed the color of the flame to green, then purple, then white, as she forced it to burn minute amounts of copper, potassium, and then magnesium from the air.
“I guess you actually paid attention in chemistry!” Griffin called across the field.  She stuck her tongue out at her brother and then continued on unfazed.
“You’re also pretty unlimited in the size you can expand the fire to.”  The flame shot up into the air about a hundred feet in a long skinny column of dancing color. “I’d go higher, but I’m afraid it would be seen.”
She brought the flame back down. “And you can control the shape and placement of it.”  She shot the flame out to circle the clearing several times until it was a spiral around them. Then she pulled the spiral in so that it was within inches of the two of them.
She doused the flame in her hand.
“You can control it away from your body.”
A small tree about 30 feet away burst into flame, popping and crackling. Then, just as suddenly the flame was doused.
Ellie looked at Ramsey. “You’ll be able to do that for anything, any size, in about a hundred mile radius eventually.”
Ramsey’s face broke into a huge grin. “That is awesome! Can you teach me all of that?”
Ellie shook her head. “Not all of it immediately. You’ll still have to learn things at your own pace, but I can help you along. What I can teach you right now is how to control it so that it can’t overwhelm you or hurt anyone.”
“Show me,” Ramsey breathed, his wide eyes impressed.

The Devil’s in the Details

I have finished my first round of edits with Wendy (Yay!).  During the editing process I added enough stuff, moved enough stuff, and changed enough stuff that I am doing one full read through of the entire manuscript before I send it back to Wendy for round two.

Now… I have to admit, that I’ve always wondered how storytellers could get details, sometimes just small ones, so wrong.  For example, in Star Wars – my all time favorite movies – there are some details that are contradictory or just don’t make sense. (Sorry George – but let’s be honest here.)

However, I now have to admit that I absolutely understand how this can happen.  As readers we have to keep in mind that what takes us hours to read (and therefore the details stay fresh in our minds) the author works on over weeks, months, or even years.  In addition – and this was a big “ah-ha” moment for me – the author has many iterations of the book/screenplay before it ever gets to print (or e-ink).

As an example…  here’s a very small change in detail that happened during the editing process on Blue Violet. In one of my first passes at the book, I had a scene that gave a decent amount of detail about what classes Ellie (my main character) was taking at the high school. It included mentioning that a fairly minor character, Brian, was in her economics class. Later in the book you discover he’s also in her physics class.

If you’ve read my blog post about editing, then you’ll understand why, during editing, Wendy suggested I cut down the descriptions of Ellie’s classes – as that came under the heading of “boring filler stuff.”  However, when doing my fast read through, now it looks like in one scene I say that Ellie and Brian are in physics together, and then later in the book I get it wrong and call it economics.

Now that’s a fairly tiny example of a detail that could get changed and then missed as things move around and shift during the editing process.  Sadly, large details can also get missed. For example, I accidentally changed the physical description of one of my main characters through my various versions.  Even more so, I can see how these detail issues happen when there’s multiple episodes (like Star Wars) or a series of books.

I intend for Blue Violet to be the first of a series. I’m already in the process of writing the second book.  In this process I managed to completely change the powers of one of the main characters in my first book. Seriously. This change is so integral to my second book that I’ve had to go back and rework that character and their impact on various scenes in Blue Violet so that it makes sense. I was lucky I hadn’t published Blue Violet yet because if I had, I would have been stuck.

My key learnings out of this process:
1. Keep a separate document that has details about your characters, situations, and future impacts – and update it when you make changes

2. Do at least one fast read through after you’ve finished the editing to catch and fix as many detail issues as possible (hell – do several fast read throughs).

3. Give those poor authors and screenwriters a break. This writing process is a complicated thing. (Mr. Lucas, you have my sincere apology for every detail issue I ever pointed out in Star Wars).

Writing a Book – How I Finally Finished One

As I mentioned in a previous post, I wrote my debut book, Blue Violet, two years ago.  It was the first time I’d finished a full book. I’d taken a whack at writing a book about ten times before. With Blue Violet I finally found the method that works best for me!

In previous attempts, I tried to write in a linear fashion. In other words, I tried to write everything in order.  And that’s exactly why I never finished one of those attempts. As soon as I wasn’t sure how to move a scene forward, or connect one scene to another, or plod through creating the “boring filler” parts, I would get stuck. Total writers block. I’d stall out and that was the end of that book.

I took a completely different approach for Blue Violet. I wrote separate scenes in chunks, regardless of how they fit together at the time.  If I got stuck on one scene I’d highlight where I got stuck in yellow and come back to it later.  If I didn’t have a scene to connect it to yet, or didn’t know how to connect it, I highlighted the words “come back to this” in yellow.  Frequently I would be in the middle of one scene and get an idea for a scene that was going to be in a completely different section of the book, and I’d be writing both scenes at once.

I liken it to the way I watch TV. I simply can not watch one show at a time. I flip through all my favorite channels and find two, often three, different channels to watch. As soon as a commercial comes on or I get bored with the scene on the current show, I flip to the next show. DVRs are horrible for me for this reason. It’s a habit that drives my husband absolutely nuts.

Once I had all of the main chunks of the book written, I started connecting the dots, so to speak.  Add a section here, put some filler there, and wham, I finally finished writing a full book. I can not express enough to you how thrilled I am about this fact (sad given that I’m a writer and should be able to express these things in flowing words.)

It makes it a little tricky to keep track of all the details as I go. So I’ve started keeping a separate document to track the details: characters (even minor ones that get a one-sentence mention), powers, and story lines. I now understand how writers of series – books or movies – sometimes get minor details in there that are contradictory or make no sense.

As soon as I found my incredible editor, Wendy, I had my second ah-ha moment. She pinpointed the boring filler that had been added late in the processes in about two seconds. And she was so right. It was boring. And that’s when I learned that you don’t always need the filler – especially if it’s boring or doesn’t move the story along in some way.

So here’s my formula: write the book in scenes as they come to me, keep track of the details, and connect it all later but only with additional scenes that continue to move the story forward.

I’m already in the process of writing the follow-up book to Blue Violet using this methodology. Which is why I know I’ll be successful finishing this one too. So, to mix a few metaphors, I’m on a roll, I’m in the zone, and I don’t planning on jumping off this merry-go-round any time soon.

Editing – Next Best Thing to Writing

A little history first… Blue Violet – this book that I am so diligently working to publish – I actually wrote about two years ago.  It practically flew onto the pages.  And then I hit the editing phase and… slowed…. wwwaaaayyyy…. doowwnnn. Let’s be honest, editing your own work sucks.  You’ve already been so deep into it that it’s hard to disconnect and really edit.

A few family members helped me out with a lot of great edits and suggestions. But YA paranormal romance is definitely NOT the preferred genre for any of them. So up till now I have yet to be satisfied enough with my book to put it out there. Until I emailed with Indie Book Reviews and they connected me with Wendy who is now my editor.

Suddenly, the editing process has become one of my favorite stages of writing this book. In Wendy I have found a kindred spirit who’s comments are spot on as well as entertaining for me since we appear to share the same quirky sense of humor.  Wendy’s  edits, feedback, and comments are all aimed at helping me create a book that I am proud to share with the world. And suddenly I’m back in creating mode, but now focusing it on molding my completed work into something better.

So I thought it might be fun/interesting to share some of the edits – both constructive and comical- that have come out of Wendy’s first round of this process:

Most Common Edits:

Common edit #1 – Telling:

This is so much telling instead of having it unfold as part of the action and storyline for us to follow naturally.

This is telling. Can you engage the reader more? Maybe have them talk…have him SAY soething

Even if its just a few lines can you SHOW this happening? Have them have a small conversation, don’t just tell it.

Common edit #2 – Kids:

but be wary of the use of the words ‘kids” because it sounds inauthentic and like an adult is talking down.

I know I keep deleting where it says “kids” because it sounds off…like, little kids.

Common edit #3 – Need to introduce the conflict sooner:

We need more tension here. Some sort of stress, inciting incident. At this point I’m starting to wonder why she doesn’t just talk to them?

Part of me is wondering if some of this back story should show up sooner, like way earlier because then we would know WHAT the risk was, in her finding these people  and why there is some danger/tension.

My Favorite Comments (for various reasons):

Fav #1: In response to this line “lots of bronzed muscles, cropped golden blond hair, and tawny eyes that were almost leonine in appearance”… Yummy

Fav #2: Just a note- you never need to say that someone is asking something ‘curiously’ because anytime someone asks anything they are obviously already curious J…well, usually.

Fav #3: I was just thinking about pizza like 10 seconds ago. Weird.

Fav #4: Lol I have to lol again as I just inserted this a second ago. Gotta love those muscled chests!

Fav#5: Oh freakin RAD. Oh please oh please I hope we get some dragon action  up in here!!

Fav #6: YAY!! TENSION!! STAKES!!! CONSEQUENCES!!! I’ve been waiting for you!!! We needed to have met each other much earlier, my friends J

Needless to say… huge thanks to my editor Wendy who’s edits have inspired me to not only follow this project through, but to keep on going with the next book.

Blue Violet: Excerpt #1 – The Beginning

I have posted an excerpt of my soon-to-be released book, Blue Violet, on Facebook. I took a poll today to see if people wanted to get a peek at either the beginning of the book, girl meets boy, or supernatural powers on display.  The vote was unanimous for the beginning of the book.

****

The first day in a new school was always the worst. Standing in the administrative office, as she had so many times before, Ellinore Aubrey shifted from foot to foot while she waited with growing boredom for one of the school counselors to give her the usual “new student” spiel. But Ellie would tolerate it. Just one last time she would tolerate it for what she had to do.

So far, her experience at this school was pretty much par for the course as compared to her other schools. Same generic brick buildings, very institutional looking, and obviously not updated in thirty years. Same kids hanging out in random patches around the school waiting for the starting bell to ring. Same secretary wearing a heavily decorated sweater, this one winter themed in keeping with the season. It was mid-January and Ellie was starting at a new school. Again.

Ellie glanced out the window. A least the locale was a little different than her previous residences. Estes Park was nestled in a valley in Colorado, just outside the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. In the distance was the beaver-shaped notches of Long’s Peak. At this time of year, Estes Park appeared to be a typical sleepy little mountain town, blanketed in white snow. Although Ellie had the impression that, come summer, it would fill with tourists, all of whom were out to enjoy the many entertainments the beautiful surroundings could offer.

“Ellinore?” a voice asked from the doorway behind her.

“Ellie,” she corrected the counselor automatically, as she turned and offered a polite smile. Her full name was very old fashioned and hadn’t been popular in decades, if not centuries. Ellie gave a mental sigh as the counselor, Miss Langston, introduced herself. She was the usual counselor-type who wanted to connect with the kids and thought that she was hip to the latest fashions and fads, but probably mentally used words like “hip.”

Surviving Self-Publishing with Delirious Optimism

Before I ever became a writer, I was (and continue to be) first and foremost a lover of stories.  I am a voracious consumer of stories in all their forms: books – from multiple genres, movies – from the silent era on up, history lectures – I minored in history, story time at the local library – don’t knock it, and even business analysis – which is my “other” profession and takes more story-telling ability than you’d think. My insatiable imagination takes me into those different worlds, and I look around and think, “Oh yeah, I could stay here for a while.”

Stories float around in my head all the time. In quiet moments like driving to work or running, my mind wanders through different scenes.  I put myself to sleep imagining my characters and how they would interact. I lose myself in my ideas.  All before I ever put pen to paper (or in my case fingers to keyboard).

The stories in my head are the reason why I write. Writing has become my outlet, almost a catharsis, and I write for myself.  I write because I would love to revisit my stories and the places and characters I create. Like catching up with an old friend. I don’t write with fame or fortune in mind.

Don’t get me wrong, I would be absolutely thrilled if my stories reached out to readers…. if someone else looked around the world I created and wanted to stay there a while with me. And that’s why I am now working my tail off to become a self-published author.

I have only just started this journey, and let’s be honest; the stats are pretty darn depressing.  We self-publishers have all seen them.  For example, 2.75 million books were self-published in 2010 – and I’m guessing, with the growing popularity of ebooks and increasing ease of self-publishing – that that number will continue to grow rapidly.

According to lulu.com, of the self-published books in 2010, ~677-thousand were in ebook format.  And only 45% of 1st-time authors publish a second book. According to Taleist.com, only 10% of self-published authors are able to earn a living through this profession. And only 25% earned enough to cover the cost of producing their book in the first place.  Industry experts say most self-published books sell somewhere between 100 and 400 copies.

My own personal answer to the acknowledged unlikelihood of becoming a successfully selling self-published author is to approach this endeavor with delirious optimism. Oh yes. I said it. Not delusional optimism. Despite my vivid imagination, I am a practical person. Also not the first definition for delirium – which is mental disturbance (although on second thought that may not be far from the mark).  But the second definition of frenzied excitement and enthusiasm is where I’m headed with this.  Yeah… that’s the ticket…  enthusiasm and optimism in the face of the odds.

So with that in mind I am slowly developing my own personal approach to being a self-published author: have faith and keep it up.  Learn from those who have gone before. And focus on the positive stats out there (there are a few) while ignoring the negative.

I don’t plan to stop writing or publishing if my first book doesn’t sell more than a few copies. Regardless of how well my books sell, I am truly hooked on this process.  As I said I love the stories floating around in my head and writing them down is a passion I’ve had since I was a little girl. But now I’m discovering that I also love the publishing process – editing, creating a book cover, even the social media aspect – as time consuming as it is. And I figure the stats are on my side the more I put out there and the longer it’s out there.

So I ask the same question that I did in my very first post… think I can do it? I do!

Writing a Hella Good Book Description

I am working on a kick ass book description. It will be the first thing people read on Kindle when deciding if they want to buy the book or not.  I have to say that I’m struggling with this task a bit.  Here’s what’s making it tricky…

The book, titled Blue Violet, is paranormal (with a little romance thrown in too).  Sort of X-men meets Twilight – only no vampires.  The tricky part is that many of the coolest parts of the book that would catch people’s attention in a book description are revealed a little at a time.

For example, you start the book not knowing if the main character, Ellie, is a normal girl or someone with powers (and no, I’m not going to tell you which it is).  And the “bad guys”, called the Vyusher (see if you can figure out what that word means), don’t really make an appearance until several chapters in.

So the question becomes, how much do I reveal in the book description to make sure I snag people’s interest without spoiling the book?  It’s a conundrum.

And this is where the power of the internet is my best friend.  There is a lot of great advice for first-time, self-publishing writers out there – if you can wade through a lot of useless drivel.  I found this blog post by another self-published author, Karen McQuestion, and it was the exact advice I was looking for – and 30 minutes later, I was done.  (Needless to say, I’ll be following that blog from now on.)

http://mcquestionablemusings.blogspot.com/2011/01/my-method-for-writing-book-description.html

To do item #549: First draft of my book description – check. So without further ado, here is the book description for Blue Violet:

Other than her twin brother, Ellie Aubrey is all alone in the world, their family having been murdered by a rival clan called the Vyusher many years before. But a mysterious dream reveals to her a potential new family in a group of people with extraordinary powers. Despite her brother Griffin’s warnings, Ellie risks coming out of hiding and moves to Colorado to find the Jenners, although she attempts to remain safely anonymous as she slowly befriends them. In finding them, she may have also found a soul-deep love with Alex Jenner. But at what cost? Ellie has unwittingly placed them all in terrible danger as the Vyusher once again threaten everything she holds most dear. Now Ellie must fight to save all of their lives.
Exceptionally imaginative and magically romantic, Blue Violet delivers equal parts fantasy, romance, and suspense. A must read for paranormal fans everywhere.

I am very open to feedback if you have any.  This is a first draft after all.

Social Media – An Author’s Best Friend? Or Worst Enemy?

Has anyone else born before about 1990 secretly questioned why so many college grads these days are offering up their services as social media consultants? Ha! Well I am finally starting to get it.  Here’s why…

In writing my first book, I’ve decided to go the route of self-publishing through Amazon Kindle.  I’m only at the beginning of the process, and I’m starting to learn that self-publishing might be even more time consuming than writing and editing the book itself (more on that tomorrow).

Logically I started at the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) section on the Amazon website.  Incredibly helpful, but a TON of information to wade through.  And I found that it generated a “To Do” list three miles long.  (More on that on another day.)

One of my key “ah-ha” moments while fishing around on the KDP site was that once I get my book posted on Kindle I need to do the marketing to get it moved up in the search list so that people will buy it.  Many of the the posters on the “questions” section of the site mentioned smart use of social media as critical to this goal.

I thought, “Hey… I’m a smart person!  I can do that.”  And off I went to create my Facebook author page, blog, and Twitter feed.  Four hours later, I was still at it, and I’m already amazed at how much work has to go into this endeavor.

For example, on facebook, I can’t get my “Likes” to show up on my author page, they only show up on my personal page, which is what I don’t want.  Same thing for my tweets which I finally got linked to facebook, but to the personal page, not the author page. And don’t even get me started on tweeting. What the heck is a hashtag used for? And is it incredibly sad that I don’t already know? At the very least, it probably dates me, right? The blog was the easiest of the three options to get going (thank you to all things good and holy for small mercies).

In addition to the set up, I now have to maintain my presence on all these social media forums, which means posts (or at least tweets) daily.  Now I have to say that social media as a form of self-marketing for writers is a pretty natural fit because we like to… well… write.   So this part I actually enjoy.

That said, it is still one more thing to do when I could be concentrating on, among other things, editing my book so that it actually gets published and all this work on social media forums isn’t for a book that never makes it out there, let alone gets read by someone other than my parents, much as I love them.

So I totally get it.  Social media consultants would be very useful to businesses, large and small.  There are a lot of ways to take advantage of these technologies and I’m fooling myself if I even think I’m scratching the surface. But I’m a fast learner, and pretty darn stubborn.  So I say bring it on!

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Tomorrow’s post… a little about my book!  I’m trying to put together a kick ass description and will try it out on this forum.

1st Time Author – Think I Can Do It?

After years of walking around with stories and book ideas in my head, and trying to write them down non-stop, I am finally getting around to trying to publish a book.  I am still in the beginning phases of the process.  The book is written.  I have found an editor, Wendy, who is incredible.  (More about Wendy and the edits later.)  My plan is to self-publish via Amazon.com through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).  I am swiftly learning that writing the book is the easiest part of this process.

Follow me as I  go through the fascinating, and I suspect often painful, process of trying to publish my first book!